Tall Blacks win series
New Zealand scaled new heights in their basketball history against Australia with a sublime 100-78 win in Wellington tonight to be crowned Oceania champions.
Led by a fired-up Mika Vukona, the young Tall Blacks produced their best basketball in recent memory, particularly during a remarkable third quarter which effectively decided the two-test series.
A 19-2 scoring burst brought 4000 supporters packed into the TSB Bank Arena to a crescendo and New Zealand never let their rattled foe get within range over the final stanza.
Following their 84-77 loss at Sydney on Sunday, New Zealand needed to win by eight points to win the series on points differential and claim the Al Ramsay Shield for just the third time.
They did it with a degree of comfort nobody could have predicted to claim the silverware they also won in 2001 and 2006.
Vukona, who called for better following their seven-point loss two nights ago, was at the heart of all that was good for New Zealand tonight.
He produced his usual giant rebounding effort with 12 but stunned with his offensive output, scoring 25 points, including 19 after halftime.
Vukona was also involved in the game's flashpoint when he and Australian giant Nathan Jawai engaged in a verbal stoush and had to be separated by teammates. It resulted in the Dallas Mavericks NBA centre Jawai being handed a technical foul.
New Zealand scoring support came from Kirk Penney, whose 24 points followed his 23 at Sydney, while centre Alex Pledger continued to impress with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Australia were led by 20 points to Brad Newley. Their hero from Sydney, Joseph Ingles, saw his scoring reduced from 26 to just 13 tonight.
The biggest difference between the teams was the long-range shooting.
Australia missed their first 14 three-point shots and ultimately landed three from 23 shots while New Zealand ended with seven from 11.
Guard Lindsay Tait opened the scoring with a three pointer in the opening seconds while Michael Fitchett landed one on the run from well outside the arc to cap their dream third quarter.
The Tall Blacks had actually trailed 38-40 after a first half that resembled the tight Sydney affair.
However, the game exploded from there as New Zealand went from 42-46 down to 61-48 ahead in 5min in which everything seemed to go right.
The highlight during that period was a spectacular slam dunk to guard Thomas Abercrombie off a Penney "alley-oop".
Australia threatened to at least claim the series as they closed to within 13 points midway through the final quarter but the Tall Blacks didn't capitulate as they had in Sydney, finishing the stronger of the two sides.
Both teams had already qualified for next year's world championships in Turkey but New Zealand will claim a superior seeding courtesy of their series win.
New Zealand 100 (Mika Vukona 25, Kirk Penney 24, Alex Pledger 15) Australia 78 (Brad Newley 20, Nathan Jawai 17, Andrew Ogilvy 14). Halftime: 38-40.
Series tied 1-1, New Zealand win on points differential.