Vukona free throw secures Tall Blacks win
Same scoreline, different result for the Tall Blacks.
Skipper Mika Vukona slotted a free throw in the dying seconds as New Zealand edged Cameroon 63-62 in China last night.
It was the same score as two days earlier, when China pipped the Kiwis on the final buzzer, but this time the basketball gods were smiling at them as Vukona nailed one of two free-throw attempts with seconds remaining to secure the win in Shenzhen.
The Kiwis had their hands full with the athletic Africans, ranked 43 in the world against New Zealand's 18, who were led by NBA forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute of the Sacramento Kings.
After a full day of travel yesterday, the Tall Blacks arrived at the four-team tournament a little road weary and sluggish through the early stages of their opening fixture.
"It was tough and I felt the guys looked a bit average at the start of the game, but as it went on, we got better and better," observed assistant coach Pero Cameron.
"In the last three or four minutes, Mika was huge - the warrior stepped up and must have had five or six offensive rebounds in that time.
"We had a big finish to win a one-point game. I felt we really took a grasp of the game and our leadership was fantastic."
If nothing else, this young side will now know about tight finishes - before leaving New Zealand, they also edged the touring Philippines by a solitary point in a practice game.
The Kiwis shot 8/18 from the arc, with veteran Casey Frank producing a balanced stat-line of two points, five assists and seven rebounds.
For the Cameroon, Mbah a Moute had 13 points, while shooter Christian Bayang led all scorers with 20 points.
New Zealand must now regroup for their encounter with the Mississauga Power All-Star team from Toronto, Canada, tomorrow night.
The eight-game tour of China is preparation for the FIBA Oceania Championship home-and-away series against Australia.
New Zealand 63 (Corey Webster 13, BJ Anthony 11) Cameroon 62.