The New Zealand women’s basketball team opened their Commonwealth Games schedule with a comprehensive 86-44 victory against Malaysia in Cairns.
Only six places separate the teams in international ranking, but the New Zealanders’ pace and aggression proved too much for the Malaysians.
Not only did 16-year-old Charlisse Leger-Walker make her international debut, but she was given a starting berth alongside Micaela Cocks, Jordan Hunter and sisters Natalie Taylor and Kalani Purcell.
Leger-Walker rewarded coach Guy Molloy’s faith by scoring New Zealand’s opening basket and going on to record 9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. She looked looking very comfortable at senior international level.
Molloy used 10 players in the opening quarter as New Zealand forged a 24-10 advantage.
Cocks became the first New Zealander into double figures as the lead hit 20 points, then extended to 51-25 at half-time.
Malaysia failed to score until the last two minutes of the third quarter although the Tall Ferns offence also stalled somewhat in that period. However, a tumbling drive from Erin Rooney and a triple from Hunter stretched New Zealand’s lead to 66-28 at the three-quarter mark.
Purcell (12 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 points) was her normal rebounding colossus as New Zealand owned the boards 63-29. In addition, pressure defence forced Malaysia into 28 turnovers.
“We wanted to speed Malaysia up and take them away from their settled game and that plan really came to fruition in the third quarter,” said New Zealand coach Guy Molloy.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t score 100 points. Our shooting fell way off in the second half. It’s been a big area of improvement for us - we had lots of good looks but just couldn’t convert.
“The lack of finishing is probably the only stain on a decent first up performance.”
The New Zealanders next face Jamaica on April 7, followed by their final Pool B game against India the following day.
Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Charlisse Leger-Walker Micaela Cocks Jordan Hunter Kalani Purcell Natalie Taylor Guy Molloy Basketball