Wellington – Playing at home and needing to win by seven or more points, New Zealand blasted Australia 100-78 to claim the 2009 Oceania Championships.
With the win, New Zealand not only gains a higher seeding in the 2010 World Championships, but takes home the Al Ramsay Shield, the all-important symbol of trans-Tasman mens basketball supremacy.
Supremacy indeed, the Tall Blacks were dominant; the 22-point margin was NZ’s largest win ever over Australia.
After trailing 40-38, New Zealand knew they had to turn up the game, as they must defeat Australia by more than 7 points to win the two-game series. The Tall Blacks used an extraordinary third quarter, fueled by a flagrant foul on Joe Ingles, to firmly take control of the game.
In that decisive third period, the Tall Blacks blitzed the Boomers 36-15, including a 19-2 run that ignited the home crowd as well as the players. They would go into the final period up 74-55.
Mika Vukona led the Tall Blacks with 25 points and pulled in 12 rebounds, Kirk Penney had 24 points, 10 assists, and 7 rebounds. 7-2 center Alex Pledger tallied 15 points and a game high 13 boards.
This was the first time in a long stretch that another Kiwi led New Zealand in scoring other than Kirk Penney – and you can reason that because Vukona stepped up to the challenge, that is why the Tall Blacks were victorious today.
Brad Newley scored 20 points for Australia. Aborigine big man Nathan Jawai contributed 17 points, Andrew Ogilvy had 14, and Ingles was held to 13 points for the losing side.
Australia has taken the Oceania Championship 16 of the 19 times, and 2009 marks just the third time that New Zealand has won the Oceania Championships, having taken home the trophy previously in 1999 and 2001. (161)