The National, Tuesday 31st January 2012
By KEVIN TEME
LAE Blazers did Papua New Guinea proud to finish third at the Australia Day Carnival hosted by the Mackay Basketball Association.
Blazers’ comprising young guns from Lae under the watchful eyes of PNG veteran Lawrence Lahari, won most of their games, drew one before bowing out in the semi-final.
The team arrived in Mackay last Wednesday and will return today.
Lahari, who is also the head coach, was impressed with the players’ performance.
Although they were new on the international arena, he said they played well to top their pool.
They advanced to meet Mavericks in the semi-final but lost to their opponents.
Lahari said they had a shaky start in their opening match against Vision Vets.
“(But) the players managed to wrap up the match comfortably 40-29 but were held to a 38-38 draw against Hooples,” he said.
He said they regrouped in their final game against Emerald, a team from the outback of Queensland.
“The players displayed a strong performance to gun them down 59-21 in a one-sided affair.”
With spirits high in the camp, the players had the support of the PNG community cheering them on in the quarter-final against the Breakers last Saturday.
“We had the finals in bag but the percentage difference was against us. We met Breakers in the quarter-final.
“The game was just one way traffic as the boys went in force destroying the hopes of the Breakers dashing their hopes of a grand final berth after beating them 83-31,” Lahari said.
John Tombele of Southern Highlands and Michael Nao of Gulf top-scored for the visitors with 13 points a piece.
“John was outstanding in running the breaks while Nao was graceful with some of his lay-ups and three-pointers. In the end, the Blazers thrashed Breakers 83-31,” he said.
Blazers met Mavericks to play for the major cash prize of A$1,500.
The visitors could not hold off the fast-finishing Mavericks who went on to win 45-32.
Lahari, team manager Sere Kala and his assistant Diana Kala were overwhelmed with the players’ performance.
He said with four wins and a loss for the Blazers on debut was an awesome effort when considering that it was the first 80% of the players to travel to Australia.
The management and players thanked their sponsors, the National Gaming Control Board, Pacific MMI Insurance, Theodist and family and friends for supporting the side.
The team will arrive today.