Defending champ Fiji edges Cook Islands 71-69 in b-ball opener

About the author:

Tina Mata'afa-Tufele is a Pasifika journalist that has been writing and covering news related to the Samoan experience for over a decade. She's written for Samoa News in American Samoa, Tuatalatala.com (covering news from Hawaii, the U.S.

  • Fiji in a tight contest with Cook Islands
    Fiji in a tight contest with Cook Islands

Fiji, the defending Pacific Games women's basketball champion, defeated Cook Islands by a slim two-point margin – 71-69 – in the opening match at Gym 2.

Top scorer was Fiji's three-time Pacific Games Captain Valerie Nainima whose final point tally was 24.

Coach for Fiji, Laisiasa Puamau, told Newsline Samoa that Nainima has been to the podium three times.

"She has been successful in winning gold in all three Pacific Games. We're blessed to have her in the team," he noted.

"Not just because of the skills that she brings because she's played at such a high level at the U.S. and also professionally just having her leadership in the group is just invaluable for the team."

Asked to comment on Fiji being deemed "the favourite" for gold in the women's competition,   Puamau replied: "Oh, are we?"

"We have a good group, a good mixture of youth and senior players. We have a great leadership in the group," Puamau said.

Fiji led throughout the entire match. At the end of the first quarter, they were 8 points ahead, 18-10.

By the end of the second quarter, they were up one point 29-28. After the third quarter, Fiji held a comfortable seven-point lead. They finished the match 71-69.

Puamau described the match as "a bit bumpy for us."

"It was our first game and we expected it to be challenging. It's a tough team, the Polynesian Cup Champions which is Cook Islands," he said.

"We came out victorious and we are confident as the tournament continues, we're just going to get better and better."

Sunday's Opening Ceremony, said Puamau, was a great experience especially for newcomers to the squad. There are two 16-year-olds on the team and a 17-year-old.

"And also a 20-year-old. This their first time playing in the Pacific Games. We know that they are our future leaders and this type of experience will go a long way," he said.

 

Te Araroa Sopoaga led scoring for Cook Islands with 17 points.

 

Assistant Coach for Fiji is Dale Wise.

 

The Fiji women take on New Caledonia in the first match at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, 10 July, 2019.

 

Cook Islands plays host team Samoa in Wednesday's last game at 6:45 p.m.

 

Fiji and Cook Islands are in the Women's Pool A with New Caledonia and Samoa. Fiji meets Samoa on Friday at 6:45 p.m.

 

In the Women's Pool B are American Samoa, Guam, Papua New Guinea and Tahiti.

 

Most team coaches participating in the Pacific Games told FIBA, basketball's world governing body based in Switzerland, that Fiji is the favourite for gold in the women's competition.

 

Cook Islands is coached by Oliver Boyce whose team holds the Polynesian Cup that was played November 2018 in Samoa. Team Captain is Janet Main.

 

FIJI WOMEN'S

 

Valerie Nainima (Captain)

Letava Whippy

Kayla Mendez

Tiyana Kainamoli

Lini Katia

Mili Koyamainavure

Nowa Naivalurua

Estelle Kainamoli

Kalesi Tawake

Vilisi Tavui

Moana Liebregts

 

COOK ISLANDS WOMEN'S

 

Janet Main (Captain)

Jasmine Davis

Terai Sadler

Adoniah Sadler

Keziah Lewis

Dalen Pilitati

Ajiah Pepe

Te Araroa Sopoaga

Maine Johnson

Jordina Katu