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More World Cup history for Emerging JTBs

New Zealand has written a new chapter in its basketball history at the FIBA Under-17 World Cup in Turkiye.

Oscar Goodman top-scored as the Emerging Junior Tall Blacks came from seven points down at halftime to beat Lithuania 73-65 in the quarterfinals on Friday (Saturday NZ Time), reaching the semifinals at an age-group world championship for the first time.


Goodman finished with 19 points (8/15 FG), 10 rebounds and three assists, leading four Kiwis in double-figures. Jackson Kiss had 17 points (5/14 FG, 7/12 FT) and eight boards and Hayden Jones 13 points (4/15 FG, 4/4 FT), 13 rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Jones, the son of Tall Blacks legend Phill Jones, hit two free-throws with 31 seconds remaining to make it 70-65.

New Zealand's results at the last two U-17 World Cups were 14th and 12th, meaning they had already achieved the country's best-ever showing just by reaching the quarterfinals.

LIthuania led by 10 points midway through the third quarter, but New Zealand fought back into the game and led 49-48 entering the fourth. And the Kiwis never handed the lead back to Lithuania.

Emerging Junior Tall Blacks basketball
The Emerging Junior Tall Blacks reached the semifinals at the FIBA U-17 World Cup for the first time. PHOTO: FIBA

"There is an internal belief around this group that we can weather any storm, we can compete with anybody and we have proved it. We're grateful to get anything more than we had but we had beliefs that we could be top four. Now it's just the cream on top stuff," said New Zealand head coach Leyton Haddleton.

"What it shows is that even for a little country like New Zealand we can compete with anyone. We've got some talented coaches from around the country that are working with many, many, many kids and this will be inspirational for them."

As if that story was not good enough, Hayden Jones is the son of Phill Jones, who was a major part of the magical Tall Blacks team that went all the way to the semifinals of the FIBA Basketball World Championship in 2002.

"Amazing - this group of boys right here, I love them all. I couldn't have done it with anybody else," Hayden Jones said. "New Zealand is a small country and hasn't been known for much but coming through the ages and getting better and better every year. Our basketball is just getting amazing."

Jones also appreciated the connection to his team's performance and that of his father's 22 summers ago.

"It's a surreal moment. Him playing the game and mentoring me made me who I am today," he said. When asked what his father told him ahead of the quarterfinals, Hayden said only: "Make free throws."

Coach Haddleton added: "I don't know what the talk between them is but I know that both of them are extremely competitive and Hayden will want to get one over his Dad. But his dad will be extremely proud for him."

New Zealand will face the juggernaut United States, who have won their five games in Turkiye by an average 65.8 points and defeated Canada 111-60 in the quarterfinals, in the semifinals on Saturday (Sunday NZT).

Emerging Junior Tall Blacks 73 (Oscar Goodman 19, Jackson Kiss 17, Hayden Jones 13, Troy Plumtree 12) Lithuania 65 (Ignas Urbonas 16, Majus Bulanovas 12, Arturas Butajevas 11). 1Q: 17-19, HT: 30-37, 3Q: 49-48


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