The New Zealand Select team kept their heads while others around them were most certainly losing theirs to win a thriller in China, 72-70 over Cameroon.
Led by Jordan Ngatai and Derone Raukawa (17 points each) in offensive output and with captain BJ Anthony leading from the front, the young New Zealand side grafted for a win that was in the end closer than perhaps it should have been, with the New Zealanders resisting a tremendous fightback throughout a feisty final quarter.
It proved too much down the stretch for the Cameroon coach, as he erupted at one of the (many) whistles from the officials, throwing his whiteboard, demolishing the pen and getting ejected for his troubles. The New Zealanders stayed in a huddle during the fuss and calmly came out and finished the job, with the margin only reduced by a long range three on the buzzer from the Africans.
With plenty of whistle from the officials and curious calls affecting both sides in equal measure, Head Coach Pero Cameron says the pressure was being felt by both sides.
"There was pressure, there was feeling, there was heat out there - for both sides. You saw a lot of passion and a will and drive from everybody and I am very happy that the boys managed to come through that with a victory, it was a tough performance so there will be some patting on the back and smiles tonight.
"I think as a team we put ourselves in a good position, up 12 at one stage with 7 minutes to go, we knew they werent done, they still had something to throw at us and they threw everything they had, made some big shots and kept coming on the offensive boards.
"A couple of our standouts tonight were Jordan and Derone and captain BJ who stood up and led this team tonight with direction at the end. Take nothing away from Cameroon though, they gave us everything they had and we did enough to get a deserved win."
Both sides came out nervous and struggled to find their rhythm on offense, either not creating good enough open looks or missing when they did but it was the Kiwis who started hitting their shots first and again it was young Yanni Wetzell who gave them a kick-start from the bench, with six quick points.
Turnovers were hurting the men in black though, that number an unacceptable 14 at half time. Every time the Select team threatened to extend on Cameroon, they would invite them straight back into the game with poor execution. Despite that the New Zealanders led 33-30 at halftime.
Ngatai led a strong start to the second half and at last the Select team appeared to have put some distance between the two teams, the combo guard/small forward showing his years spent in the front court as a junior by going to the post to great effect, constantly backing into the paint to score the majority of his 17 points close to the rim.
With the lead out to 12 early in the final quarter a win looked assured, but this is international basketball and Cameroon were not about to give the game away, as was shown by the passion of their coach, even if a little too fiery.
But the young Kiwis kept cool, made their three throws and enjoyed the win, with the three on the buzzer scant consolation for Cameroon who leave Shenzhen winless from their two games.
Beyond the leadings scorers, this was a team effort, with solid contributions across the roster, with Wetzell finishing with 7 and 4, Finn Delany 7 and 4, and Tony Tolovae 5 and 4.
Brook Ruscoe bravely gave the Kiwis six minutes on his injured ankle while Houston ORiley showed he is overcoming a calf strain in playing 14 minutes, bringing leadership and calm at vital times to the cause. They will both again be carefully managed by the team physio Anousith Bouaaphone over the next 48 hours to ensure they are able to contribute in the tours final game.
New Zealand Select will now travel to Zhongshan for the final game of the tour, against the Shenzhen Leopards, a Chinese Basketball League team currently bolstered by no fewer than four American imports in w3hat is certain to be the toughest test of the tour.
New Zealand Select 72
Ngatai 17/6, Raukawa 17, Anthony 11/6
Thierry 17, Thibaul 13, Pamga Fra 12
Sunday 24 July
NZ Select v Shenzhen Leopards
Tip off midnight NZT
- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Basketball New Zealand