Game five on the Junior Tall Ferns tour of China was played in Yuqing on Friday against the host country. The Ferns led 13-11 at the first interval and trailed by just four points, 45-41, at three quarter time. They silenced the local crowd by taking the lead early in the final quarter but couldn't hang on in the closing minutes losing 68-58 in a highly creditable performance.
Report from Brent Matehaere (Junior Tall Ferns head coach).
To beat China in China, you have to execute down the stretch and take the crowd and any other possible influence on the game out of the equation.
The JTF's took the lead for the fifth time in the game with just under 6 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The closing minutes became very physical. Bodies were left scattered at the defensive end where rebounding was like trying to hold up the running of the bulls. On the offensive end going to the basket would have had Genghis Khan thinking twice.
That being said, the JTF's really stood up and the small ball basketball was performed to a very high level.
The JTF's forced 27 turn overs, 11 in the first quarter, but were unable to consistently convert those into points at the offensive end. Alyssa Hirawani, Tiarna Clarke, Zara Jillings and Charlisse Leger-Walker were all over the Chinese guards.
Forwards Charlotte Whittaker, Aliyah Dunn and Katie Diakhaby were staunch in their defense against the young female version of Yao Ming, 6'9" Han Xu. Coola Baudry's stat line won't show the great screens and disruptive defense that she performed. It was an effort worthy of increased minutes and respect.
Charlisse Leger-Walker led all scorers with 14 points and Zara Jillings, despite being off colour and Tiarna Clarke also reached double figures.
The JTF's will be happier with their shooting percentages from the floor (39%) and the 3 point line (33%) but free throws (7from17) left a lot to be desired and will be a focal point of training in the morning before taking on Poland. With only four games remaining the learning that is taking place has been immense and the JTF's will be looking to taste success before returning home.