15 - 17
August 2015
2 Micaela COCKS (New Zealand)
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Buoyant Tall Ferns ready for 2016

TAURANGA (2015 FIBA Oceania Women's Championship) - New Zealand coach Kennedy Kereama was a little frustrated after the FIBA Oceania Women's Championship ended with Australia headed to the Rio Olympics.

But it wasn't a poor performance from the Tall Ferns that got to him, rather how well they executed his new disruptive defensive game plan at times throughout the series.

"I think that's the right direction for us," he said.

"I guess it's taken this long to figure out the way we defend, for us to get this far is a bit frustrating, I wish we knew the magic potion three years ago."

While in Game 1 they continually mixed up their defense and limited the Aussies to 61 points, in the return bout they took a more aggressive, man-to-man approach and generated plenty of offense from their 'D'.

"We didn't junk it up tonight, we went straight up the whole game and pretty much stuck with them," Kereama said.

"Junking up is something we have been successful with and we can go back to."

That combination of proactive defense and aggressive offense gave the Opals one of their sternest tests in coach Brendan Joyce's era, and has the Kiwis confident looking towards next year's FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament (WOQT).

"We were confident going into the last [qualifying tournament], just some things didn't go our way," star guard Micaela Cocks said.

"But the next one we will be more experienced because that was all of our first time doing the repechage tournament.

"We'll be confident, we go against Australia who are the number two team in the world so frequently. We're playing good basketball, we've just got to put it all together."

Veteran forward Natalie Taylor agreed.

"It's really exciting for us because of the young group we have, and they're quite talented. After another season at their colleges or overseas programs they're going to be better again," she said.

"We'll be more experienced as a team, they'll be a bit better, we'll have played a bit more together as a team in our systems, so it does give us confidence going into next year."

The thought of getting this group back together next year has Kereama excited, but as he talks the frustration sets in again, albeit for a different reason.

"We'll be playing the same style, the same systems, possibly the complete same roster," he said.

"We know what it's all about now, particularly our senior players, and a few of our juniors have been there and done that. I think we'll be ready come the qualifying tournament.

"It's a long time to wait, that's the frustrating thing, to wait for that long to play our next most important game of basketball."