Tall Ferns go down to China, Olympic dreams in the balance

By Te Ao - Māori News

The Tall Ferns came back down to earth against a powerful China side yesterday in Auckland, losing 94-71 in the second match of their Olympic qualifying series. It comes after they easily swept aside the Philippines 111-54 on Friday.

It now means they face a do or die match against Korea today if they wish to progress to Tokyo in July. The Ferns need to win the match by 13 or more due to the Koreans having beaten China in their opening match.

There were outstanding efforts again from Ashleigh Karaitiana (17 points) and skipper Kalani Purcell (21 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists). Toni Farnworth scored 9 points and Penina Davidson battled away for a valuable double of 8 points and 8 rebounds.

Purcell’s effort was her highest points total in an international.

“Yes, it’s nice to have played well personally but we didn’t win the game and we didn’t play well in the first half. We need to play Tall Ferns' basketball against Korea tomorrow,” she said in a press release today.

Tall Ferns Head Coach Guy Molloy, while disappointed with the result, complimented China on their performance.

“They shot extremely well making 62% from the floor and 59% from the three-point line. We needed them to have an off night like they did against Korea on Thursday but it wasn’t to be.

“I felt we were off the pace in the first half but we responded well in the second half losing by just a bucket.”

However, the Ferns can still hold their heads high as their match drew a crowd of over 3,000 to Trusts Arena in Henderson. One spectator, in particular, was very prominent, former NBA star and Chinese national player Yao Ming was there to cheer on his compatriots.

The Ferns’ final match is today at 5:30pm against Korea, who smashed the hapless Filipinas 114-75 in their game.