Webster sends Tall Blacks to next round

By Eru Paranihi

A game-high 30-points from Corey Webster has given the Tall Blacks a victory over Korea in Seoul.  The win means New Zealand have qualified for the next round in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.

Most players that achieve such a feat would be in the mood to celebrate, but Webster is keeping grounded. 

“You have your off days, you have your good days," says Webster, "When you start to make a couple early, you start to feel good about yourself and the basket looks a bit bigger than it usually is.”

New Zealand and China are through to the next round with three wins from four games.

With Hong Kong unable to surpass the Tall Blacks, it's a battle between them and Korea for the last qualifying spot of Group A.

Coach Paul Henare says, “We defended really well. Our pressure was able to force a couple of turnovers in that second half.  I still believe Korea are a very good basketball team.”

Webster says, “It was a good game. I was proud of the boys- how we turned up.  Back in Wellington, we were a little disappointed with our performance.”

The win is all the sweeter given that Korea had their best player back in the form of Ricardo Ratliffe.

The American born star did not play in their last encounter in Wellington.

“He's good around the basket and a good target for them inside. We had some trouble defending him at times,” says Henare.

Getting two wins on the road is great for New Zealand who are without Thomas Abercrombie, Tai Wynyard, and Mika Vukona.  Furthermore, star player Kirk Penney has recently announced his retirement, while the waiting game is still being played for NBA star Steven Adams.

“We didn't always have success, but the sustained pressure over 40 minutes in both games...we had more success in the second half, and I think it was a sign of our guys and the depth of our squad,” says Henare.

The players and staff will now go back to their clubs.

The country will get the chance to see the Tall Blacks in June and July when they take on Hong Kong in Rotorua, and China in Auckland.