The Tall Blacks came through a test of character with flying colours in a fiercely fought and often times controversial third place playoff match against the host nation at the Atlas Challenge tonight, winning 90-84 in Suzhou.

Rebounding after what was by their own admission a disappointing semifinal performance, the Tall Blacks responded to the urging of their coach to overcome adversity and ground out a win despite losing three players to five fouls and ending the game with a further 3 on the brink of fouling out.

Tom Abercrombie was clutch on the big occasion, as were Isaac Fotu and Shea Ili. Abercrombie with a game high 27 points on 9 of 14 shooting, including 4 of 7 from deep and a perfect 5 from 5 from the free throw line. Fotu poured in 21 points on 8 of 13, including an ice cold three point dagger in the final minute of the game to gap the Chinese while Ili stepped up big time with Corey Webster in early foul trouble, the Breakers point guard had a career night with 15 points and 5 boards and was a constant menace on defence.

Henare was proud of the passion shown by his side, not to mention the ability to stay calm in the face of immense pressure, including a delay of the game by almost an hour before tip-off.

"I am very proud of the boys, any time you prepare for a game and you are on court and finishing your warm up and they tell you the game is delayed 50 minutes that is tough for anyone to deal with. I spoke to them and said we have to deal with it, it is what it is. I said I wouldnt like to be in their position but they had to find some way to come out and get themselves going and while we didnt get a good start which wasnt ideal, I did have a feeling that if we could just chip away at it we would be fine."

The game had begun in controversial circumstances, with officials nominating both teams in white uniforms the game was delayed while China sourced their red uniform from their hotel. What was initially set to be a 15 minute delay turned into 50, with the players waiting on court for the opening buzzer.

Once the game was finally underway, Corey Webster and Mika Vukona were quickly in foul trouble in what would soon be a feature of the game, with a number of curious calls leaving the Tall Blacks confused but all the more determined to come out on top in their final game in China before travelling to Europe. The Tall Blacks had a total of 31 fouls called on them, with Tai Webster, Ili, and Vukona all fouling out of the game.

China got away to a fast start in a first quarter that contained 13 foul calls from the officials, giving no chance for the game to flow. But a 21-9 lead was cut to 25-23 and from then on the two sides were closely matched.

The composure came from the men in white though as they made clutch shots down the stretch - with Fotu and Abercrombie both making big threes, while defensively they shut down the Chinese and restricted their scoring options.

The New Zealanders smashed the boards 38-21, shot an impressive 58% from the two but struggled from deep, making 6 of 27 attempts.

Henare was pleased that lessons were learned from yesterdays semifinal disappointment and highlighted some key players to tonights success.

"Tai Websters leadership of the group, even early on when things werent going well he was leading well. I did see a more conscious effort from the guys to what we are trying to achieve, there were definite improvements from yesterday to today.

"The adversity of being down early, at least ten down in the first quarter, to peg that back to be down by two at the first break - that was great to turn around in such a short time. Corey got in foul trouble, all our bigs got into foul trouble which allowed different guys to get opportunities and different guys to step up.

"Tommy (Abercrombie) was outstanding throughout the game, he put the team on his shoulders and was really impressive. He is a class act, he is always capable of that sort of thing but he understood the need when others were down and it was great to see him take on that responsibility for the team.

"Shea (Ili) had an immediate impact, his stat line at halftime was something like 6 minutes, 10 points, 2 offensive rebounds and 3 fouls, he was just awesome and is understanding the game a lot more> he still has his moments but the energy he brings to this team outweighs what I call inexperienced mistakes, but what he brings is outstanding."

The team now faces a long travel day to Europe where they will be based in Latvia and Lithuania for ten days, with a week of training before three final tune up games ahead of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila.

Tall Blacks 90

Abercrombie 27, Fotu 21, Ili 15, T Webster 12

China 84

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Basketball New Zealand