Tall Ferns lose series against Australia Opals
The New Zealand women's basketball team will have to go through a tough qualifying tournament next year if they wish to make their fourth consecutive Olympic Games after their series loss to Australia in Brisbane.
New Zealand was beaten 92-73 by Australia giving the home side an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three test series with the final match in Sydney on Saturday.
It came as no surprise to see the Tall Ferns bow to the talented home side although this was by no means the Opals strongest side with a clutch of top players still unavailable on women's NBA duty in the United States.
As in the first test in Melbourne earlier in the week the Tall Ferns had great difficulty denying their taller rivals around the hoop and lost the battle of the boards.
Australia's Suzy Batkovic, who had terrorised the Tall Ferns in the opening match, again posed problems and had 11 points by halftime. She finished with 19 overall while fellow centre Elyse Penaluna cleaned up a lot of the scraps around the hoop to net 17.
The Tall Ferns managed to keep Australia within their sights for three quarters of the match but tired badly in the closing quarter when they went for some four minutes failing to score for the Opals to seal success.
New Zealand's leading players were Natalie Taylor who never stopped testing the Opals and was rewarded with 17 points a tally matched by Micaela Cocks, who shot at a much better percentage than in the first match.
Forward Jillian Harmon chipped in with 10 points but was always battling against bigger opponents.
New Zealand had another poor start to the second test trailing by 14 points (22-8) after numerous shots failed to drop while Australia again had Batkovic in commanding form. The visitors also struggled to control the boards and lagged well behind on the stats sheet.
The Tall Ferns managed to drag back the home side with several three-pointers in the second period with Micaela Cox, Natalie Taylor, Suzie Bates and Kate McMeeken-Ruscoe all splashing three pointers as New Zealand closed the margin to seven by halftime, 42-35, having won the second quarter 27-20.
New Zealand was again without regular starting point guard Angela Marino who remained on the injured list.
AUSTRALIA 92 (S Batkovic 19 E Penaluna 17 A Bishop 14)
NEW ZEALAND 73 (M Cocks 17 N Taylor 17 J Harmon 10)
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