A few days ago, the small beautiful country of New Zealand which is best known for their breathtaking landscape and having been the location for the filming of the Lord of the Rings movies and the tiny country that has only 4,4 million inhabitants to boast hasn´t been known for exporting great basketball players except for guys like Steven Adams, Sean Marks and Aaron Baynes to the NBA had the big mighty Les Bleues France at the brink of a loss. This summer the French national team boasts four current NBA players like Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum, but also ex NBA players like Nando De Colo and Mickael Gelabale, but France rallied back and showed their true colors unleashing a lethal 22-2 run in the fourth to escape with a hard fought 66-59 win over the disappointed New Zealand nation. This summer New Zealand has a very hungry group of players that mostly play in the NBL league at home, but also have a few players abroad like Tai Jack Webster who played against the top young Kids in the states at Nebraska (NCAA) or Isaac Fotu who plays for CAI Zaragoza (Spain-Liga Endesa) or Thomas Abercrombie who played at Pinar Karsiyaka SK Izmir (Turkey-BSL) last season. Corey Webster led New Zealand with 21 points and had the hot hand even if he only shot 7/22. He is definitely a guy that loves to say inside his mind “bombs away” when he is parked behind the three point line. Canada was fortunate that France was able to come back and win the nail bitter, because if they hadn´t Philip Scrubb and co would have had a date with France already in the semi-finals instead of with New Zealand.
Canada like France also boasts many current NBA players and New Zealand would need to be mentally prepared as well as have a very good day on the court to have a chance against Canada. Only four years separate between combo guards Corey Webster and Philip Scrubb, with Webster having been a star for years in the NBL league with the New Zealand Breakers and like Scrubb can shoot out the lights and is a very productive and accurate free throw shooter. At times though Webster can pull a Bobby Brown or Allen Iverson and hog the ball feel like he all alone on the court and just shoot too much. However Webster did something against France that Scrubb has never done in the last six years of college and professional basketball and something he surely would never do for the Canadian national team either. In the loss to France a few days ago, Webster unleashed 15 three pointers. Even though Scrubb loves to shoot and at times has shot more than a few during a game, the most three´s he ever took in a single game was 14 in a CIS game early in his career at Carleton against Ottawa. Webster would surely be a main option again against Canada, while for Scrubb it would most likely be another day at the office as he would as usual play his normal team orientated game, look for his spots and let Canada´s Cory without the e Joseph take the majority of the shots.
Canada once again started with four current NBA players while new Giessen 46er Thomas Scrubb was also inserted in the starting lineup like he had been in the first two games. The first few minutes were tight and back and forth and it didn´t take Webster long before he nailed his first three giving New Zealand the 6-5 advantage. However it wasn´t Corey but Tai Jack Webster doing the damage Both teams continued to be hot nailing from all cylinders as Webster quickly was 2/2 from down town giving the pesky New Zealand team the 13-10 lead with 4.32 to play. Thomas Scrubb also didn´t shy from the parking lot getting involved in the three point fest nailing and Cory Joseph as always was unstoppable in the lane scoring three times. Philip Scrubb came into the game at 1.37 of the first quarter with the game tied at 21-21. After 10 minutes New Zealand had the narrow 25-23 lead. The story of the game was Tai Jack Webster who had eight points on 3/4 shooting while the other Cory Joseph had eight points on 4/5 shooting. Melvin Ejim also supplied punch from the bench with five points. Philip Scrubb had a rebound, foul and missed shot after 1.37 minutes of play. Canada was shooting an astronomical 67% from the field and 60% from outside while New Zealand was hooting 41% from the field and 50% from outside. Canada had the 10-7 rebound edge, but had to do a better job of taking care of the ball as they had five turnovers and New Zealand zero. Canada had done a good job spreading the scoring around as seven players had scored.
New Zealand went on a quick 5-2 run to start the second quarter as now it was Corey Webster stepping up nailing a few buckets, but Canada retaliated as Philip Scrubb found some daylight getting a few rebounds, dishing out an assist and connecting on his first three pointer and played 3.36 minutes only in the second quarter. The game remained tight in the second quarter as Canada got NBA player Anthony Bennett more involved and kept giving the reigns to Cory Joseph who was unstoppable in the paint. Philip Scrubb was still finding his touch as he was 1/4 shooting from the field. The back and forth hitting of shots in the first quarter also decreased as both teams began to defend more. Canada did a better job clamping down on defense shaving the 25 first quarter New Zealand points to 17 in the second quarter, but the game was dead locked at 42-42 at the break. Canada continued to be consistent on offense steering home 19 points. Corey Webster really heated up in the second quarter having 14 points even if his three wasn´t falling as well, he made up for it at close range. Canada continued to shoot well from the field at 47%, but stumbled a bit more from down town in the second quarter finishing at 29%. New Zealand were holding their own better with their shooting as they were at 43% from the field and 47% from down town. Canada continued to have the edge under the boards at 25-19 as NBA champion Tristan Thompson was a force with eight rebounds and only had one turnover in the second frame lifting their total to five while New Zealand had four turnovers.
In the third quarter, the first five minutes was dominated by defense as both teams were having difficulty scoring while Canada´s Cory Joseph continued to produce in the paint or get to the free throw line easily. Philip Scrubb came back into the game at the 5.28 mark of the third quarter and didn´t waste much time knocking down a shot and hauling down a rebound as Canada led 50-46. At the end of the third quarter, Canada went on a run as their aggressive defense led to good offense something that Philip Scrubb had often witnessd last season with the Fraport Skyliners. Scrubb contributed with a timely block assisting the Canadian raging defensive pressure. Ex UNLV(NCAA) and current Olympiacos S.F.P. Pireus (Greece-A1) player Khem Birch also supplied energy with a thunderous dunk. Canada overall played aggressive on both ends and Cory Joseph was a beast being everywhere on the court as he sneaked in for an offensive rebound and put back and made free throws. However with Canada leading 58-51, it was Corey Webster who supplied much needed three point punch cutting the Canadian advantage to 58-54 after 30 minutes. Philip Scrubb played 5:18 minutes in the third quarter and had six points. Canada was shooting 43% from the field and 25% from the parking lot while New Zealand was shooting 38% from the field and 38% from the parking lot. Canada continued to control the boards 39-30, but had 11 turnovers while New Zealand had nine turnovers.
With 10 minutes to play, Canada kept Philip Scrubb in the game and New Zealand continued to play their hearts out as they got the lead at 66-64 with a Mika Vukona bucket. After a quick start from both teams, then came a lull midway through as the game was tied at 66-66 until Tristan Thompson made a lay in and free throw for the 69-66 lead. However Robert Loe nailed a trey to dead lock the game at 69-69, but then it was Thomas Scrubb who had been quiet in the scoring department since the first quarter making a basket for the 71-69 lead. However New Zealand just continued to plug away and tied the game again at 71-71 at the 3.19 minute mark with a big Thomas Abercrombie dunk. Canada really buckled down in the last minutes holding New Zealand scoreless despite them staying aggressive on the offensive boards and getting an offensive rebound, but Tai Jack Webster missing an easy layup. Canada wrapped up the game with Thompson free throws and a Ejim lay up to get Canada the 77-71 lead with 20 seconds to play. Ejem closed out the game with a free throw as Canada reached the final disposing of New Zealand 78-72 who have to be commended for giving a major fight for 37 minutes, but running out of gas at the end. “I think our defense intensity was really good when we needed it to be. And our rebounding down the stretch was good”, stressed Philip Scrubb. Canada was led by Cory Joseph with 20 points while Tristan Thompson(10 rebounds) and Melvin Ejim chipped in with 13 points apiece. New Zealand were led by the two Webster´s as they combined for 36 points. Corey Webster had 21 points shooting 8/18 while Tai Jack Webster had 15 points. Thomas Abercrombie chipped in with 16 points. Canada shot 43% from the field and 20% from outside while New Zealand shot 39% from the field and 38% from outside. Canada won the rebounding duel 47-42 and had 12 turnovers while New Zealand had 13 turnovers. Philip Scrubb played 17.33 and finished with three points on 1/5 shooting, three rebounds, one assist and one block. Apparently at the end, the scouting department had made a mistake and given a three pointer early in the game to Scrubb even though Cory Joseph had been the recipient of the basket. “Not going to look too far ahead to who we’re playing next. But both teams are playing well right now and have lots of talent”, added Philip Scrubb. The Canadian obviously didn´t have a real preference shortly after the win, but a little while later, it was France that prevailed over Turkey 75-63. Philip Scrubb now has a date with Mr Basketball France Tony Parker in the final.