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Harmon on fire in narrow Tall Ferns loss

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 2/06/2016

A huge double-double from New Zealand forward Jillian Harmon wasn't enough to stop them losing 78-74 to hosts Belarus in the first game of a four-nation tournament in Minsk.

Harmon scored 32 points and pulled down 15 rebounds, complemented by four assists and two steals and almost did enough for the Tall Ferns to overcome an early 12-point deficit and topple the world's 10th-ranked team.

It was an encouraging display by world No.22 New Zealand, who fought back late in the second quarter to trail 40-34 at halftime.

They powered ahead 52-51 after scoring 10 unanswered points in one of a handful of bright periods hailed by coach Kennedy Kereama.

"We had some tremendous patches of play and played some of our best team basketball," he said.

"We were running the floor well in transition which is great because we challenged the team on that."

Micaela Cocks scored 10 points while the rebounding of Harmon and Toni Edmondson helped the tourists dominate that boards.

Another positive was the first appearance by experienced guard Erin Rooney since she injured her knee playing in the French league in February.

New Zealand's next game is against 11th-ranked Turkey on Friday, followed a day later by 16th-ranked Japan.

The Tall Ferns completed two similar tournaments in China, winning two of six games, and squared a 1-1 series against Latvia before coming the Belarus.

They are building up for the Olympic qualifying tournament beginning in France on June 13.

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