From the tip off, Canada set the tempo for the game.
Despite this, the Tall Blacks hit shots early. Long offensive possessions coupled with 6 offensive rebounds for each team meant that both sides got plenty of shots up in the first quarter.
While Canada may have controlled the tempo, New Zealand controlled the score by hitting multiple bail out shots at the end of the shot clock.
The first quarter was energetic – neither side willing to concede an inch, with a combination of full court defences and plenty of bodies banging down low. Both teams played quite a team-centric offence, very little isolation game whatsoever was exhibited for the vast majority of the game.
Despite the bulk shooting, Canada went 5/21 (including 2/14 from downtown) and New Zealand went 8/20 (4/12 from deep) with New Zealand leading 23-13 behind Rob Loe’s 8 points and 6 rebounds by the end of the first quarter.
The start of the second quarter was very Canada-focused, where they started off the quarter on a 14-7 run that brought the game right back into balance.
After the first quarter, New Zealand focused very heavily on taking more shots around the basket, only shooting from behind the arc when they were forced to – this was highlighted by a Corey Webster corner 3 at the shot clock over the extended hands of a couple of Canadian defenders.
This quarter was where the game started to really heat up. For a game that was considered nothing more than an ‘exhibition game’, both teams were desperate to come out on top. This was exemplified by the scuffle between Tai Webster and Aaron Best. A seemingly meaningless foul call escalated into both players having to be separated from one another after a few shoves back and forth.
Despite Canada taking the lead at 32-31, New Zealand entered the half on top at 36-33. Phil Scrubb from Canada led all scorers with 11 points.
Despite being down at halftime, Canada seemed to have the edge going into the third quarter. Their offence had started to execute a lot better during the second half and they really lifted their intensity to bring themselves back into the game.
Oshae Brissett seemed to fire up all the Canadian fans in the building after he put his own missed lay-up back for a huge jam to start the quarter.
All the action this quarter was happening inside the key as tough post-ups and gritty drives towards the basket dominated the offensive action for the quarter.
Coupling this with the fact that Tom Abercrombie, the New Zealand captain, had to return to the bench after picking up his fourth foul meant that Canada had the upper hand in the third.
Canada entered the last quarter with a slim lead 60-59.
This is where Canada seemed to fully flex their muscles and pull away with good offensive execution and gritty defence. Kevin Pangos, the Canadian captain, scored a few buckets in a row that ended with a spot-up three from the wing which gave Canada a lead of 10 points.
However, the Tall Blacks were not ready to surrender and managed to fight their way back into this game. Corey Webster made a timely 3 and Rob Loe finished a tough and-1 lay-up to cut the lead to 4 with just 6 minutes left.
Tom Abercrombie, just 15 seconds later, picked up his fifth and final foul and had to spend the rest of the game on the sidelines – a big blow for the Kiwis.
Going into the last minute, Canada had a 3 point lead.
New Zealand could have won this game but shot themselves in the foot in this last minute. Tai Webster missed both free throws at a forgettable trip to the line and proceeded to miss a contested lay-up off his own rebound. Finn Delany, just a few seconds later, proceeded to miss both of his free throws as well after the ball was swatted out of his hands.
Corey Webster, putting the Kiwis on his back, made the tough and-1 lay-up and proceeded to convert it at the free throw line to tie the game with 12.1 seconds left.
This is what happened next.
After the chaos of the last few seconds, it was anyone’s game going into overtime.
Canada came out firing. Kevin Pangos and Kyle Wiltjer hit back-to-back 3’s to extend Canada’s lead to 7. Isaac Fotu was then fouled out with 2:23 left while the lead was at 10 points.
After a Kevin Pangos 3 put Canada up by 11 with 1:04 left, New Zealand seemed to be completely out of the game.
Corey Webster came into his own in this final minute. A super turbulent final minute that was highlighted by a fading mid-range at the horn with 22 seconds left and a crazy contested 3 with just 4 seconds left made it a 1 point game.
Kevin Wiltjer, however, iced the game at the free throw line and Canada won the game 103-100. A wildly entertaining game on Wednesday night at Homebush.
Canada – 103
Top scorers: Scrubb (P) 24, Wiltjer 18, Pangos 17.
New Zealand – 100
Top scorers: Webster (C) 33, Rusbatch 15, Loe 12.
New Zealand: Andrew Nembhard went down with an apparent lower leg injury.