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World Championship berth would "send shivers down my spine", says New Zealand U18 women's coach

SUVA (FIBA U18 Oceania Championships 2016) - The New Zealand Junior Tall Ferns got off to a positive start in the FIBA U18 Oceania Championships with a dominant 132-18 win over Guam, but head coach Brent Matehaere isn’t getting ahead of himself.

Despite taking easy care of Guam, Matehaere is aware that a much larger challenge awaits against Australia. The Aussies boast eight players from their U17 World Championship gold medal winning squad, and won by 120 points in their first group stage match against Tahiti. However, the Kiwis won’t back down from the Australian giants.

“I guess the bottom line is you look at what sits before us and it’s the world champions, the Under-17s and there were awesome the way they played basketball in the world champs,” Matehaere said. 

“They were a delight to watch. We certainly know what’s ahead of us and it’s a huge mountain to climb but we are going to give it our best shot.”

While Matehaere admitted it would be foolish to focus on the possibility of qualifying for the World Championships, he couldn’t hold the excitement in when questioned about the prospect.    

“I just got shivers down my spine when you said it,” Matehaere said, when asked about what it would mean for New Zealand if they qualified for the FIBA U19 Women's World Championships in Italy. 

“It’s never happened, so we can’t really focus on that at all. We know it’s a goal in the background, but we just got to play position by position because that’s all we really can do.

“If you start focusing on those things they don’t happen, so we just got to focus on our systems and what we need to get done.”

New Zealand looked comfortable in their first pool match, shooting 56 percent from the floor and holding Guam to just a 19 percent shooting rate. Additionally, the Junior Tall Ferns were able to force 38 turnovers, which translated into 56 points.

Akiene Reed was their leading scorer with 22 points, but it was an all-around effort from Matehaere’s squad, with six players reaching double digits, and a further two scoring nine points.

After over a year of planning, it’s safe to say New Zealand was satisfied with the way their campaign kicked off.

“We are happy with our preparations [leading into the tournament],” Matehaere said.

“This has been on the calendar for us for 18 months. In terms of pool play, it’s about establishing making sure we are doing the right things at the right time.

“We are pretty happy with our first hit-out. We are looking for a bit of pace today to get our legs under us.”