The FIBA Melanesian Cup 2022 tipped off at Vodafone Area Suva in Fiji with Papua New Guinea and Fiji starting their tournaments with wins.
Papua New Guinea (PNG) women held off a fast-finishing Solomon Islands in the first game of the day to start their FIBA Melanesian Cup defence, 63-51.
Joycelyn Basia was prolific for the Solomon Islanders with 21 points, but that was not enough to claw their way back in the second half when PNG were in foul trouble, and their fitness was put to the test.
PNG Captain, Marca Muri said it was a great fight and a good way to start the tournament with the remainder of their squad due to arrive in Fiji later tonight.
“It’s so amazing, we can with only six players, so it was amazing to win today,” Muri said. “We have another six players arriving tonight, so we are very much looking forward to that.”
Finishing the game with 17 points and 5 assists, Muri said the team had to dig deep, especially in the final half to hold off the fast-finishing Solomon Islands.
“We just had to hang in there and tried to keep our fitness levels up,” Muri said. “We have been training a lot and putting in the effort, so it was great hold them off.”
The host side, Fiji was too strong for New Caledonia (78-61) in the second women’s match of the day despite strong individual performances from Enola Ah Ah Tchung, Adeline Souque and Moone Konhu from the bench with 14 points for the game.
Fiji debutant, Matila Vocea was prolific from the bench with 15 points and 12 rebounds to launch her national career.
“It was a really tough game but I’m really proud of the girls, we got through it and we got it done,” Vocea said. “Playing tonight was really humbling and although it was really tough getting here, I’m really grateful for the opportunity to play for my home.”
The former Fiji national netballer, Vocea said that she has always had a love for basketball so converting to the game she loves has been rewarding challenge. “Netball is more reliant on agility, I was a shooter, so basketball is that plus defending and more running,” Vocea said. “
“Netball is more agility related, so netball shooter, inside circle so for basketball it’s shooting and defending and running more, the fitness is a lot more.”
The FIBA Melanesian Cup 2022 continues today with Papua New Guinea taking on New Caledonia at 12pm (local time) and Fiji coming up against Solomon Islands at 7:30pm (local time).
The top two teams at the Melanesian Cup will qualify for the 2023 Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands. The Pacific Games then serves as the official qualifier for the Oceania region to the FIBA Asia Cup Pre-Qualifiers.