The New Zealand men’s basketball team have beaten China 67-57 in their World Cup qualifying match in Auckland.

The Tall Blacks had an eight point lead at half time but the Chinese fought back in the third quarter to tighten the gap to three points.

However New Zealand pulled away midway through the final quarter to claim their fifth win of the first round of qualifying and finish top of their group heading into the second round in September.

It was a much tighter match than New Zealand’s demolition of Hong Kong just three days before, the Chinese brought a far more physical and high tempo game that resulted in several tense moments full of pushing and shoving.

Paul Henare’s men had a narrow 18-15 lead at quarter time before going on a 13-0 run in the second quarter as China’s defense switched off.

Tall Blacks point guard Shea Ili and Isaac Fotu lead New Zealand’s offensive attack with 27 points between them while veteran Mika Vukona proved a handful for the Chinese under the rim.

Despite a third quarter revival from the visitors, the Tall Blacks were able to hold their nerve in the fourth to close out the match and the first round.

New Zealand now face Jordan, Syria and Lebanon in the second round of qualifying.

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