It went down to the final shot, but Tai Webster and New Zealand advanced to the Round of 16 at the FIBA Basketball World Cup with a 67-65 win over Finland on Thursday.
Webster finished with five points on 2-of-4 shooting before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. He has started all five games for New Zealand, averaging 5.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. New Zealand will now take on Lithuania, which won Group D, in Barcelona on Sunday at 9 a.m. central.
New Zealand, which placed fourth in Group C with a 2-3 record, were seemingly in control and built a 20-point lead, at 53-33 with 6:22 left in the third quarter. They led 57-39 with 1:27 left in the third quarter before Finland stormed back, scoring the final six points of the quarter and then nearly erased the entire deficit in the fourth quarter, outscoring New Zealand, 20-10 in the final 10 minutes.
Finland pulled to within 66-65 and had a pair of possessions to take the lead in the final minute before Mika Vukona’s free throw with four seconds pushed the margin back to two points. Finland had one final chance to send the game into overtime, but Petteri Koponen’s jumper at the buzzer was off the mark, sending New Zealand into the next round.
Puerto Rico and Jorge Brian Diaz were not as fortunate Thursday, falling to Croatia, 103-82, and finished with a 1-4 record
in Group B. Diaz played five minutes off the bench and was held scoreless.
Diaz, who played in four of five games while making his international debut for the Puerto Rican National Team, averaged 1.9 points and 2.5 rebounds per game while averaging 9.2 minutes per outing. He played at Nebraska from 2009 until 2012.