By JACK AMI
THE Papua New Guinea women bagged the FIBA Melanesia Basketball Cup with an impressive 77-58 win over Fiji at the Taurama Aquatic and Indoor Centre on Saturday.
PNG claimed the gold medal and were unbeaten throughout the tournament.
This is the national women’s first tournament success since the 1991 South Pacific Games in Port Moresby where they won the gold medal.
PNG repeated their first round performance against Fiji by getting off to a handy lead and maintaining their position throughout the final.
Forward Mary Elavo Junior top-scored for her side with 16 points which included two three-pointers.
Captain Marca Muri also contributed 14 points with the rest of the side in Rosa Kairi, Normalisa Dobunaba, Erika Amos, Cindy Elavo, Lydia Gotuna, Betty Wong and veteran Emily Koivi chipping in.
Fiji’s Mafi Le’o had 13 points with skipper Letava Whippy (12), Tehana Taito (12) and Talica Sautu (9) the other scorers.
The home side had the wealth of experience in skipper Muri, Elavo, Betty Angula, Koivi while youngsters Kairi and Dobunaba acquitted themselves well.
Angula was her side’s most influential player creating opportunities and providing the impetus for the PNG side.
Fiji had admittedly come to the tournament with an inexperienced side with several members of the 2015 Pacific Games gold medal-winning squad absent. Whippy led the side to the Melanesian Cup. The opening quarter was tight with the home side holding a one-point edge (17-16) but kicked on in the second quarter out-scoring the Fijians 22 points to 10 for a 39-26 lead at halftime
PNG kept up the momentum to be 64-42 in front at three-quarter time.
Fiji had a better final quarter limiting PNG to 13 points and matching them, but the result was never in doubt.
Coach Muri said his side had worked hard to put themselves in the position to win gold.
“It was not easy as we worked hard to win this and restore some lost pride for PNG,” Muri said.
“For me all the players deserved to be given the pat on the back for helping the team win. It will be a memory they won’t forget.”
Skipper Marca Muri thanked her side for putting in the effort and not clocking off.
“I thank all the girls in this team, coach Moi, our Basketball Federation PNG, and the tournament sponsor Niugini Beverage (Pepsi) and last but not the least all our supporters,” Muri said.
By JACK AMI