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New Zealand captain Quinn Clinton left speechless after qualifying for U19 Worlds
New Zealand has finally done it.
After a thrilling 57-51 gold medal match victory over Australia, New Zealand has qualified for the FIBA U19 World Championship. The Kiwis will be playing in their second FIBA U19 World Champs, after hosting the event in 2009, but this marks the first time they’ve officially qualified, in a landmark day for New Zealand basketball. Furthermore, New Zealand’s win means it’ll be the first time Australia has failed to qualify for the tournament.
In a back and fourth affair, New Zealand captain Quinn Clinton came up big in the clutch. With his squad trailing by one point with 40 seconds remaining, Clinton would bank in a three-pointer while getting fouled, a shot that gave the Kiwis a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. He failed to convert the four-point play, but Taane Samuel’s put-back was the nail in the coffin.
It wasn’t the only time Clinton held his nerve late, with a cold-blooded triple putting his squad up 50-49 with 1:32 remaining.
With the magnitude of the result fresh in his mind, Clinton was overjoyed at the fact New Zealand will be playing in a FIBA U19 World Championships.
“I can’t speak about it,” Clinton said.
“Me and my team have been working for two years, some of us even longer, to get here. It’s the first time for New Zealand and we are wrapped and can’t wait for it.”
As for the three-pointer he hit to send the Kiwis to the event, Clinton’s excitement got the better of him, with the captain struggling to string two words together.
“I don’t have words for it,” Clinton said.
“It just happened and I’m super happy it went in.”
Of course, along with punching their ticket to the World Championships, New Zealand will also be taking home gold medals from the FIBA U18 Oceania Championships.
Clinton was proficient for his team during the event, averaging 14.5 points per game. Additionally, Sam Waardenburg had a sensational campaign, leading all scorers with an average of 20.5, the only player to eclipse the 20-point mark. However, Waardenburg left the gold medal match with an apparent leg injury knocking him out of the game with 2:22 to play, which makes Clinton’s efforts even more extraordinary.
As expected, Clinton was overwhelmed with the feeling of taking home the gold.
“I don’t have any words for it at the moment; it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Clinton said.
“I’m just lost for words, I’m super happy and I’m super excited for my team.”