Molloy’s Tall Ferns lose opening qualifier to China

February 9, 2024 | Sydney Flames news

The New Zealand Tall Ferns, coached by Sydney Flames’ Guy Molloy, have fallen 94-47 to China in their first game of the FIBA Olympic Qualifiers in Xi’an, with the young New Zealand squad putting up a valiant effort versus the second-best team in the world.

It was always going to be a tall task to beat China – the FIBA Women’s World Cup 2022 runners-up, led by FIBA Asia Cup MVP Xu Han – in front of a raucous home crowd.

But the Kiwis were not intimidated by the imposing Chinese frontline, attacking their opponents in the paint and being aggressive throughout.


Despite this, New Zealand struggled throughout the game against China’s size and defensive presence; held to just 30.5 per cent shooting from the field – including 2-21 from downtown – and giving up 17 offensive rebounds and 20 turnovers to their opponents. China was led by the towering duo of 6’9” Han (21 points on a perfect 9-9 shooting) and 6’7” Yueru Li’s 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 seven 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 becoming New Zealand’s youngest ever Tall Fern when she checked into the game in the first quarter.


Following the game, Molloy praised the China team for their performance and took a philosophical view of the loss.

“Congratulations to Team China, they’re a very powerful team and it’s a great lesson for us to play against such a good team,” Molloy said.

The Tall Ferns return to action in the FIBA Olympic Qualifiers on Saturday night, taking on Puerto Rico at 10pm AEDT for their second of three games.

Watch the game live here.