By JACK AMI
PAPUA New Guinea women’s campaign started off with a well-deserved 63-54 win over Fiji in the FIBA Melanesian Cup at the Taurama Aquatic and Indoor Centre, Port Moresby, yesterday.
In the other women’s match Solomon Islands shocked New Caledonia 59-53.
PNG stamped their authority from the toss-off and did not shy away from the challenge exhibiting good coordination to score points.
Fiji, the 2015 Pacific Games champions, trailed throughout the match and never looked like breaching the gap.
PNG led each quarter after taking a 16-13 first quarter lead.
They extended the gap to 32-19 at halftime, thanks to guard Betty Angula who used her rugged style to great effect.
The Fijians made a better fist of things in the third quarter scoring 16 points but Papua New Guinea maintained their lead to be 49-35 in front heading into the final quarter.
To Fiji’s credit they did out-score PNG 19 points to 14 in the final frame but that was not enough to keep the home side from claiming a valuable 63-54 win with two matches to go in the tournament.
Angula was PNG’s bets with 10 points, six assists, two steals and 10 rebounds. Centre Emily Koivi bagged 11 points and added nine rebounds as well.
Teenager Rosa Kairi and Nester Sape scored nine points each with Normalisa Dobunaba returning eight in a solid team effort.
Coach Moi Muri started Marca Muri, Angula, Koivi, youngsters Kairi and Dobunaba to get his side to take a lead and the bench complemented that effort.
Fiji’s Letava Whippy netted a game high 18 points, two assists, eight steals and 13 rebounds was her side’s best performer.
Mereleni Tora contributed 10 points and Mafi Le’oFoiakau scored seven.
Muri said his side were happy with the result against a side that was considered a favourite for the title.
“We respected Fiji as 2015 Pacific Games gold medalists but it was a great win to start of the campaign with,” Muri said.
“This win boosts our confidence and we have two more pool games which we are looking forward to.
“Marca (Muri), Betty (Angula), Emily (Koivi), Mary Elavo Junior did well. They set it up for us.”
Muri said there was still room for improvement and he would be pushing the team to do that against New Caledonia.
Fiji coach Laisiasa Valesu Puamau said apart from Whippy, her team comprised seven new players and they were looking to use the Melanesian Cup to get ready for the Pacific Mini Games later this year and the 2019 Pacific Games.
“PNG was the better team but we should get our game plan right against the Solomons tomorrow,” Puamau said.
Results: Wed, Sept 27 – Women: Solomon Is 59 New Caledonia 53, PNG 63 Fiji 54.
Fixtures: Thurs, Sept 28 – Women: Fiji v Solomon Is 1pm, PNG v New Caledonia 3pm; Men: Solomon Is v Fiji 5pm, PNG v New Caledonia 7pm.
By JACK AMI