As soon as the final buzzer sounded in a dominant 107-66 win over Syria, Tall Blacks head coach Paul Henare had turned his attention to the Monday night game in Rotorua, when the Energy Events Centre will see Lebanon take on the New Zealand team.

The game in Beirut on Thursday night had something of a surreal atmosphere, playing Syria in Lebanon in front of a crowd of about 200 passionate fans - including a few Kiwis - it took some time for the New Zealanders to find their rhythm and flow.

Tai Webster was first to show out with back-to-back three-pointers sparking the New Zealanders to a first quarter 20-12 lead, but Henare was not overly pleased with the execution to that point and urged his team to higher standards.

The team responded from deep, ending the game with an impressive 16 of 32 from beyond the arc, with eight players draining at least one triple, led by Webster (5 of 6) and Ethan Rusbatch, who came off the bench to drain two in the final quarter.


The nature of the game meant Henare was able to rotate his roster and not over-play anyone, with the game in Rotorua in the back of his mind. Shea Ili played the most minutes with 22, while everyone else played at least 10 minutes in a good hit out before the tougher clash with Lebanon at the Energy Events Centre.

HIGHLIGHTS: Tall Blacks v Syria, with special mention of Finn Delany clearing new roads at the end there! Both teams playing away at Nouhad Nawfal Stadium in Lebanon for this one, now the TBs return home to Rotorua for a big test vs the might of Lebanon. Tickets #TallBlacks #TuKaha #FIBAWC

Posted by Tall Blacks on Thursday, 13 September 2018

All in all, Henare was pleased with the performance after a sluggish start.

"I thought we were a little ill-disciplined in the first half, especially at the defensive end. But we had high standards coming into the game and wanted to play our way and do things the way we wanted to do it, but it took us a while to get into the flow of the game.

"Once we did we moved the ball and got good shots, and defensively we were a little more locked in to the game plan."

Henare warned that Monday in Rotorua would be a very different prospect though.

"The biggest challenge is getting back in a good space mentally and physically. There has been a lot of preparation and planning for the trip home, it is not perfect, but we will make the best of what we have. We will make it a fun and enjoyable trip home, get a good sleep and be ready for the game.

"Lebanon will be a step up, they are a good basketball team. We will watch them on TV for a bit tonight before we head to the airport, it will be good for the guys to get eyes on them and get familiar with them. The coaches will share video on the way home – we have plenty of time for that. We have done plenty of preparation behind the scenes, we will share that with the boys and move on quickly to that game now."

Tall Blacks 107 (Ngatai 16, Fotu 16, Ili 16, T Webster 15)
Syria 66