The Junior Tall Blacks have escaped with a 88-81 victory over South Korea in their tournament opener at the Under 19 Basketball World Cup.
A dominant final quarter from centre Tai Wynyard spurred the Junior Tall Blacks to a 31-16 advantage in the fourth period, overcoming a extremely sloppy first three quarters to lead his team to victory.
Wynyard scored 14 fourth quarter points as the Junior Tall Blacks came from 77-69 down with 4.37 to play, storming back for a much-needed victory against what is perceived to be the pool's weakest team.
While all teams progress to the last 16, seeding is dependent on your record, and the JTB's will need improvements against the highly-rated French on Monday morning, as well as their final group game against Argentina.
The New Zealand coaching staff sprung a surprise by leaving Sam Waardenburg out of the starting lineup, and their plans were quickly altered when Wynyard picked up two early fouls.
However, the rotation which saw all 12 players see the court in the first half was questionable, as was leaving Wynyard on the bench for the entire second quarter with his two fouls.
Wynyard ended up only playing 19 minutes, but was extremely effective when he saw the floor, ending with 22 points, six rebounds and two blocks on 10/11 shooting.
His dominance made up for a rusty showing featuring 28 turnovers, and a poor 17/33 performance from the free-throw line.
It was those mistakes which had the Kiwi side in a hole, despite South Korea not playing all that well. The JTB's were largely getting good looks, and their massive size advantage led them to a 46-34 advantage on the glass.
Yet, their pick and roll defence was malfunctioning for large chunks of the game, allowing South Korea to stay afloat despite their offensive woes - shooting just 3/21 from deep.
Finally, the Kiwis tidied things up, and their run came - not coincidentally - when they put their best lineup on the floor for an extended stretch. Wynyard stepped up, and he got support from Isaac Letoa (14 points, three rebounds, five assists), Quinn Clinton (12 points, six boards) and Waardenburg (eight points, five assists) as they eventually came up trumps.