A youthful yet highly talented Australian Boomers claimed victory over the New Zealand Tall Blacks in a 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifier.
If this was a glimpse into the future for Australian Basketball, then what lies ahead is going to be full of excitement after the Boomers scored a FIBA 2021 Asia Cup Qualifier victory 81-52 against the New Zealand Tall Blacks in Cairns on Saturday night.
The teams that turned out for Australia and New Zealand were vastly new-look and youthful line-ups but the game had plenty at stake all the same with it counting towards qualification for August’s FIBA Asia Cup in Indonesia and in turn earning a place in the qualifying phase of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
It was technically a New Zealand home game, but current border and quarantine restrictions meant that it would be played in Australia with the Boomers team largely made up of those on scholarship at Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence (CoE) while the Tall Blacks team was built around Australian-based New Zealand players.
That set the tone for a fascinating match at Cairns Pop-Up Arena and the game was strongly supported by the local basketball community with a near capacity 1,614 fans turning out to support the international contest.
With an average age of just 19, it was a chance for the Boomers of the future to show what they could deliver, and they sure did plenty of that in the eventual 29-point victory over a Tall Blacks team led by five-time NBL champion and 476-game warrior Mika Vukona.
Whether it was the exciting all-round talents of Bendigo’s Dyson Daniels, the hot three-point shooting of Tasmanian Reyne Smith or the impressive athleticism of Perth’s David Okwera, that was just the start of what was so exciting from the Boomers.
Daniels ended the evening with a game-high 23 points, six steals, four assists and three rebounds in a dazzling performance made up of him showing his high-flying talents, shooting ability, quick hands and that he can bring his teammates into the game.
Smith’s shooting was spectacular as he knocked down six three-pointers on his way to 22 points while Okwera finished with 12 points and four rebounds.
They were far from the only strong contributors with all 12 of the players making it on the court for at least two minutes of action.
Captain Matt Kenyon finished with six points and 10 rebounds while Taran Armstrong added six points and eight boards, Hunter Clarke five points and four rebounds, Hunter Goodrick three points and three boards, Patrick Ryan two points and a steal, and Tyrese Proctor two points and an assist.
Boomers coach Adam Caporn couldn’t have been prouder of how the young group, who he has worked so closely with most of them at the CoE, handled the big occasion.
“I’m very proud and I really thought we dug in and played right. We played together and won the effort areas,” Caporn said.
“Obviously we’re younger but we really brought it and competed so I’m proud of that. Everyone was really thankful for the support we felt from other Boomers, ex-Boomers and the basketball community.
“The boys loved that, it got them up and they were ready. I knew they’d compete but I’m really proud of how we went about it.”
Taine Murray top-scored for the Tall Blacks with 14 points with Houston O’Riley going 4/4 from three-point range for 12 points and five assists.
The game got underway with a Reyne Smith three-pointer as a sign of things to come and when he hit another, it ended an 8-0 Boomers run to help them to a 15-5 lead which was 23-12 by the end of one.
The going was tough for both teams in the second period but Australia was still on top 33-23 by half- time with that lead growing to 12 by the end of three.
It was time to put on a show in the fourth quarter with some spectacular finishes from Dyson Daniels, David Okwera and then Tyrese Proctor while Reyne Smith hit his sixth triple and Taran Armstrong also connected from deep on the way to the 81-52 win.
Australian Boomers – 81 (Daniels 23, Smith 22, Okwera 12)
New Zealand Tall Blacks – 52 (Murray 14, O’Riley 12, Janssen 8)
FIBA Asia Cup Group C Qualifier, Cairns Pop-Up Arena
Match Report written by Chris Pike – freelancer contributor for Basketball Australia