24 Feb 2019

Abercrombie three-pointer seals NZ win

5:23 pm on 24 February 2019

Led by a stand-out performance from swingman Tom Abercrombie, the Tall Blacks have edged Lebanon 69-67 in Beirut and won their 10th consecutive World Cup qualifier in the process.

Tom Abercrombie

Tom Abercrombie Photo: Photosport

The Tall Blacks haven't been defeated in their Asia Group E pool since an opening 86-80 loss to South Korea in November 2017.

Abercrombie, who led all scorers with 19, nailed a crucial three-pointer with just 20 seconds left on the clock to seal the win for New Zealand.

He received outstanding support from Finn Delany, who sunk 15 points and picked up eight rebounds. The 23-year-old forward fronted a strong defensive New Zealand effort which also featured sterling work from Mika Vukona (seven rebounds and two steals) and Rob Loe (seven rebounds and three assists).

The Tall Blacks led 16-13 after the first quarter and 37-30 at half-time, but Lebanon surged back in the third stanza to level the scores 52-52 at the final break.

A strong offensive rebound from Jean Abd El Nour followed by a regulation lay-up gave Lebanon a 66-65 lead with 23 seconds remaining, but Abercrombie's trey secured the win.

Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare said the win was a complete team effort, and reserved special praise for the final offensive play.

"The boys were extremely locked in out of the time out, they did exactly what was asked of them," he said.

"Not many will notice but the cut that Reuben Te Rangi made just made Tommy's man sink in a little bit more, the screen from Rob Loe and the pass from Mika was right in the shot pocket.

"Tommy still has to make the shot, but there were a lot of working parts in that play and to be able to execute with what was on the line in that environment was pleasing."

Abercrombie says that teamwork and chemistry was a special part of playing for the Tall Blacks.

"It's always refreshing and rejuvenating to get back in this environment with the brothers, we have a great camaraderie and chemistry in this team and it is a pleasure to go out and fight with them," he said.

The team now travels to Jordan for their final World Cup qualifying game on Monday (NZT).