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Tall Ferns stun world No.3 Spain

NZN 8/06/2016

The Tall Ferns' Olympic qualifying campaign has been given a huge boost by their upset 54-52 win over world No.3 Spain in Gijon.

Ranked 22nd in the world, the New Zealanders overcame a slow start to pile on 10 unanswered points and take a 15-9 lead into the second quarter.

Perimeter shooting from Micaela Cocks and Chevannah Paalvast in the second period gave the Kiwis a 27-22 halftime lead.

Forwards Penina Davidson, Paalvast and Jillian Harmon accumulated 25 rebounds to give the Kiwis parity on the boards, and they extended their lead to 43-32 at three-quarter time.

Spain came surging back in the final quarter, but three-pointers from Cocks and Edmondson kept the Ferns in front.

Edmondson fouled out before the final whistle, but the Tall Ferns held on to take a notable scalp ahead of the Olympic qualifying tournament in France next week.

Tall Ferns head coach Kennedy Kereama was quietly satisfied with the performance, although he expects his team to back up in their second match against Spain on Friday (NZT).

"It was a true defensive job and all players were locked in and focused for 40 minutes," he said.

"But we have to back up and play them again tomorrow. We need to show that this was no fluke and we can also improve on this game.

"We need to grind teams down with our defence and keep teams to low scores if we want to compete with the best."

The Kiwis are based at Asturias in Spain for the final stage of the build-up ahead of the qualifying tournament starting in Nantes on Monday.

Five of the 12 teams will qualify for Rio, with New Zealand having to firstly negotiate a group comprising world No.4 France and 13th-ranked Cuba.

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