By HENRY MORABANG
PAPUA New Guinea have double reason to celebrate as their men and women were both crowned champions of the inaugural International Basketball Association (FIBA) Melanesia Cup in Port Moresby.
After being undefeated during the group matches, the PNG men’s team managed to shake off a strong challenge from New Caledonia to win 81-61.
The women beat Fiji 77-58 in their gold medal playoff.
Australia-based Leahy Martineng-Lakah continued his solid play with 17 crucial points in the final game of the four-day event at the Taurama Aquatic Indoor Complex in Port Moresby to set up a 20-point win over the New Caledonians.
The tournament was as a qualifier for the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa.
PNG and New Caledonia both qualified and were joined by third placed Fiji after their 63-43 win over the Solomon Islands in the bronze medal playoff.
In the women’s final, history was created has PNG for the first time defeated Fiji at any level of basketball.
PNG proved too strong for the 2015 Pacific Games champions.
Fiji will have another chance at revenge in Samoa in the 2019 Pacific Games.
Both PNG and Fiji have qualified and will be joined by New Caledonia, who defeated Solomon Islands 81-63 in the bronze medal playoff.
PNG women coach Moi Muri told The National that he was confident his women would win the gold medal after going through the group stage undefeated.
PNG women’s captain Marca Muri said: “We haven’t played in a gold medal game for years so it’s nice to be a part of it and especially because it is at home.
“It is a big achievement for us.”
Fiji women’s coach Laisiasa Puamau was disappointed with the result but admitted his side had been beaten by the better team.
Fiji came with the hope of repeating the 2015 Pacific Games gold medal-winning performance but the hosts proved too strong winning the newly-formed Melanesia FIBA Oceania sub-zone title.
Basketball Federation PNG president Nick Daroa thanked the three countries for sending their men’s and women’s teams to the Sept 27-30 tournament.
Papua New Guinea, Fiji and New Caledonia will now wait to see who will join them in the 2019 Pacific Games from the Polynesian and Micronesia regions.
By HENRY MORABANG