Basketball: Tall Ferns crushed by China in Olympic qualifier tournament opener

Esra McGoldrick led the NZ scoring.
Esra McGoldrick led the NZ scoring. Photo credit: Photosport

The Tall Ferns have gone down 47-94 to China in their first game of the FIBA Olympic Qualifiers in Xi'an.

Playing without their star sister duo of Krystal and Charlisse Leger-Walker, the young NZ squad put up a valiant effort against the 2022 World Cup 2022 runners-up, but ultimately had few answers for their towering star Xu Han.

New Zealand struggled throughout the game against China's size and defensive presence, held to just 30.5 percent shooting from the field and giving up 17 offensive rebounds and 20 turnovers.

China's tall duo led the way, with Han registering 21 points on a perfect 9/9 shooting and Yueru Li adding 16 points and 12 rebounds. 

New Zealand was paced by Esra McGoldrick's 11 points, while Tera Reed added 10 and guards Tayla Dalton and Lauryn Hippolite chipped in with 7 points apiece.

The game also marked a trio of Tall Fern debuts, with Lauren Whittaker (four points, six rebounds and five assists) leading the team in rebounds and assists in a starting role, while Sharne Robati and Pahlyss Hokianga earned valuable minutes.

Hokianga became New Zealand's youngest ever Tall Fern when she checked into the game in the first quarter.

The Tall Ferns return to action in the FIBA Olympic Qualifiers on Sunday morning, taking on Puerto Rico at 12am NZT for their second of three games.