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Tall Blacks rebound with play-off win

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 19/06/2016
Tom Abercrombie © Enrique Calvo/Reuters Tom Abercrombie

Tom Abercrombie was singled out for praise after his 27-point haul helped the Tall Blacks recover from a shaky start to down China 90-84 at the Atlas Challenge basketball tournament.

Rebounding after a disappointing 80-65 semi-final loss to Lithuania, the Tall Blacks stepped up to claim third place despite three players fouling out in Suzhou.

Abercrombie's game-high 27 points included four three-pointers and an a blemish-free five from the free throw line.

Isaac Fotu poured in 21 points, including a three-pointer in the final minute of the game while Shea Ili stepped up with 15 points after Corey Webster found himself in early foul trouble.

Coach Paul Henare was pleased with the way his team stayed calm in the face of immense pressure, which included a delay of the game by almost an hour before tip-off.

Once the game finally started, Webster and Mika Vukona were quickly in foul trouble in what would soon be a feature of the game.

A number of curious calls left the Tall Blacks confused as they accumulated a total of 31 fouls, with Tai Webster, Ili, and Vukona all fouling out of the game.

The New Zealanders dominated the boards 38-21, shot an impressive 58 per cent from the field but struggled from deep, making six of 27 attempts.

Henare said it was pleasing to see that lessons had been learned from their semi-final defeat.

"The adversity of being down early, at least 10 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.

"Tommy (Abercrombie) was outstanding throughout the game, he put the team on his shoulders and was really impressive. He's a class act."

The team now travel to Latvia and Lithuania for 10 days, with a week of training before three final warm-up games ahead of the Olympic qualifying tournament in Manila early next month.

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