An impressive showing by the Junior Tall Blacks has come up short this morning, falling 80-69 to France at the Under 19 Basketball World Cup.
It was a case of a much better performance, but a worse result for the Junior Tall Blacks, who were much improved from an inconsistent 88-81 victory over South Korea the day before.
Those improvements were required against the European champion French side, and the Kiwi side's display was much smoother as they pushed the fancied French for the majority of the game. Late-game fouling gave the scoreline an inflated degree of comfort, after it was a four point contest with just two minutes remaining.
The Junior Tall Blacks had earlier led by one at halftime, and if it were not for France hitting threes at the end of the first three quarters - including a wild 35 foot runner - the game could have come down to the wire.
That won't be the only missed opportunity the Tall Blacks rue. 13 missed free throws were again a blot on the display, while they turned the ball over 26 times to France's 11.
However, on the whole, the outlook is far more positive, with the forward duo of Tai Wynyard and Sam Waardenburg both putting on excellent displays.
Wynyard's impact wasn't quite shown in his boxscore stats (12 points, five rebounds, two blocks) but his influence was big, as was Waardenburg's, who will surely be moved into the starting lineup after compiling 14 points and nine rebounds.
Flynn Cameron - who just turned 17 - was the standout guard, creating opportunities off the dribble with nine points and four assists, and Quinn Clinton connected on three triples to put up 13 points.
In the end though, France's talent shone through. After a slow start to the game from deep, their shots slowly regressed to the mean, allowing them to go on several second half runs to keep a reasonable distance.
The Junior Tall Blacks responded to their blows with counter-punches of their own, but they couldn't hang down the stretch, as the French resistance took out the final quarter 23-16 to seal a hard-fought win.
Next up for the Junior Tall Blacks on Wednesday morning are Argentina, who were defeated 63-52 by France, but smacked South Korea overnight, 100-76.
While every team progresses to the knockout stage, seedings are based on a team's finish in pool play, meaning the Junior Tall Blacks will be in line for an easier opponent if they can progress from their group in second with a 2-1 record.
A win over Argentina would likely see them play hosts Egypt in the Round of 16, while a defeat could leave them staring at a powerhouse in Germany or Lithuania.
Based on this morning's display, they will be a real threat to the Argentines, with tip-off at 4.30am on Wednesday.