Tall Blacks qualify for 2019 World Cup

Tall Black Reuben Te Rangi. Picture: RNZ

The New Zealand Tall Blacks have qualified for the 2019 World Cup in China after a 97 to 74 victory over Syria.

After a 23-point win over Syria at TSB Bank Arena in Wellington, the Tall Blacks have secured their spot as one of Asia’s six automatic qualifiers for basketball’s pinnacle event next year in August.

Without key player Shea Ili, the Tall Blacks dominated the visitors from the outset with the result inevitable from as early as the first stanza with Syria unable to score within the first 5 minutes.

Syria would play better in the second half, outscoring the hosts, 48-36, but it was just too little, too late for the visiting West Asian side.

Veteran Tom Abercrombie led the charge as the side’s top scorer with 15 points and three triples, Alex Pledger and Ethan Rusbatch finished on 11 while Mika Vukona notched 10 points, four rebounds and two steals.

Of their last 10 qualifying matches the Tall Blacks have won nine, their only loss coming in the opening match to Korea in November 2017. New Zealand still have two games remaining in the Asian qualifiers against Lebanon and Jordan in February however the results will not affect their qualifying spot.

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