New Zealand stuns Croatia, creates chaos in the group

2024-07-03T18:31:11+00:00 2024-07-03T22:57:50+00:00.

Giannis Askounis

03/Jul/24 18:31

Eleven unanswered points in crunch time push New Zealand to a triumph in Greece

By Johnny Askounis/

ATHENS – Trailing the entire second half, New Zealand saved the best for last to get a win, 90-86, against Croatia on Wednesday.

Behind a stunning display late in the fourth quarter, the team coached by Pero Cameron went up to 1-0 in Group A of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Piraeus, Greece. Wrapping up the round-robin schedule in Gameday 3 of the group, Thursday’s game is versus Slovenia, which is 0-1 after losing to Croatia on Tuesday.

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Down seven points with just over three minutes on the clock, the Tall Blacks drew an 11-0 finishing run. Experienced floor general Shea Ili chipped in six points, including the game-tying layup with 1:22 remaining in the fourth quarter and the go-ahead layup with 37 seconds left.

Among the regulars of New Zealand for nearly a decade, Ili ended up with 18 points behind 6/9 field goals. Corey Webster recorded a team-high 21 points. Finn Delany chipped in seven points, nine rebounds, and two assists before fouling out.

For the team coached by Josip Sesar, Ivica Zubac nearing his career-high with 29 points and grabbing 16 rebounds went to waste. Dario Saric and Mario Hezonja finished with 19 and 16 points, respectively.

With Croatia locked at 1-1 and through to the next stage of the OQT as the first or second seed, Luka Doncic and teammates need to win by a margin of ten points or more against New Zealand to avoid an early exit.


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