Taranaki's Isabelle Cook part of history as New Zealand qualifies for junior world cup
31 Oct 2017
What a year it has been for Opunake's Isabelle Cook.
The young basketball player has been part of the second-best women's team in the country, won a national title with her Opunake High School squad, and is now a part of New Zealand basketball history.
Currently competing with the New Zealand under-17 girls' team in India, the 16-year-old is part of the first junior women's New Zealand team to qualify for a basketball world cup.
The team achieved their world cup berth on Thursday night (NZ time), beating Thailand 80-52 in the quarterfinal of the FIBA Asian Championship.
Their assured finish in the top four saw the Kiwi team qualify for next year's world cup in Belarus alongside Australia, China and Japan.
Going through their pool matches with wins over Korea and Chinese Taipei and a loss against Australia, the New Zealand side finished second in group A and set themselves up with a knock-out match against Thailand with a world cup spot on the line.
Thailand, who finished third in group B, kept the pressure on the Kiwis early, but a quality start from Auckland's Sharne Pupuke-Robati saw the New Zealanders ahead after the first quarter.
With the lead in hand, the New Zealand side went on with the job and built a 57-35 lead with a quarter to play. Cook shone in the final quarter, finishing with six points and nine rebounds in 19 minutes on the floor, to help the side close out a convincing 28-point win.
Through four matches, Cook is averaging six points, six rebounds and an assists in 20 minutes per game.
"The girls, the coaching staff and management have worked really hard and I think it shows that the game in New Zealand is on the rise. Our junior teams are performing really well,' coach Lori McDaniel said.
The side will now face an unbeaten Japanese side on Saturday morning (NZ time) for a spot in the final.
❑ Fellow Taranaki national league representative Alonzo Burton is also overseas representing New Zealand in the sport.
Burton, who was the Taranaki Mountain Airs most valuable player in the 2017 season, was named in the men's 3x3 squad to attend the Asia Cup in Mongolia.
The competition gets underway on Saturday morning (NZ time), with New Zealand set to open their account against the winner of the qualifying draw A - which will be either Australia, Turkmenistan or Malaysia.
New Zealand go into the tournament as the No.2 seed, with Japan the top seed.