By Joel Fitzpatrick, Games News Service
Fiji has claimed the Port Moresby 2015 Pacific Games women’s basketball gold medal, beating American Samoa 75-61 at the PNG Power Dome on Saturday.
This win in the gold medal game sees Fiji finish the tournament unbeaten in seven games and shows excellent growth for a team that lost in the semifinals of the 2011 Pacific Games in New Caledonia.
Fiji’s captain and best player Valeria Nainima was obviously ecstatic with her team’s win.
“It’s an emotional moment, we are so happy. It took a lot out of us today and we are glad we came away with the win,” Nainima told the Games News Service.
But Nainima said she expected that American Samoa would throw everything at her team.
“We knew American Samoa is going to come out and get us,” she said.
“We are just going to take this win, we love it.”
“It’s a big deal to us. To get this win is to give back to all those hard working people who tried to change basketball Fiji.”
The gold medal game was a battle of the point guards with both team’s floor generals leading and orchestrating their team’s play throughout.
American Samoa’s Rhelna Ale was going head-to-head with Fiji’s Nainima and both players proved the catalyst to their team’s play.
Ale and teammate Destiny King led American Samoa through the half, with Ale scoring 16 and King 12 – which were 28 of the teams 33 first half points.
However, Amercan Samoa’s two-pronged attack was not enough to get the lead as Nianima’s 12 points led a much more balanced attack that saw Fiji ahead 42-33 at the half.
The second half saw much more of the same, with Ale and King proving to be American Samoa’s only effective weapons while Fiji had four players in double figures by the end.
Fiji were led by Nainima’s 16 points, six assists and six rebounds and she was well supported by Mikaelar Whippy’s 15 points.
Ale finished the game with 21 points and King 19.
The women’s bronze game between Tahiti and PNG was a hard-fought affair.
The game started with PNG falling behind early as the host’s offence failed to fire.
Despite vocal home crowd support PNG were unable to solve Tahiti’s zone defence and their inability to score looked like it would cost them.
But the well drilled and more fundamentally sound Tahitians were unable to shake their more physical opponents and with one quarter to go PNG had cut the deficit to four points.
PNG had every chance to win the game in the final quarter but some silly plays cost them while Tahiti rode the poised play of Orama Laille, Alizee Lefranc and Maea Lextreyt to the 62-51 win.