New Caledonia crowned FIBA Melanesian Cup 2022 champions after defeating Papua New Guinea at Vodafone Arena, Suva.
New Caledonia flew out of the blocks in the gold medal match finishing the first quarter with a 25-point led that they built on over the following three quarters, winning 87-57.
The late exclusion of shooting guard, Steeven Sillant did not disrupt the New Cal unit with Ethaniel Fenuafanote, Luther Puleoto and the ever reliable, Jo Delaunay-Belleville all contributing to a team gold medal performance.
“I am really proud of the team, we worked really hard, and I believe we showed that on the court today,” Delaunay-Belleville said. “In 2017 we lost twice to Papua New Guinea, so it was nice to finally win in the final today.”
Fiji defeated the Solomon Islands, 67-53 to win bronze.
Fijian Captain, Josh Fox was happy with the team’s performance and highlighted the disappointment of not making the gold medal match.
“We are obviously disappointed with the results of the tournament prior to today’s game, but we have a lot of good things on film to look back on,” Fox said. “We are happy with the progress we have made; we have a lot of new and young boys on the team so we will use this as a growing platform to continue learning.”
Fox finished the tournament as Fijis leading performer, top points scorer, and mot rebounds but personal statistics did not drive him this tournament. “If we don’t end up winning, I’m more disappointed, the stats may look good but if we don’t win then I’m not very happy,” Fox said.
“We played four debutantes who played big minutes and I’m so proud of all of them. Isimele Koroi is incredible, we told him to just keep shooting and be aggressive. I don’t think he understands how big he is yet, he is very strong and also very young, so to see his improvement from when I last played with him, is amazing. He has been good at this tournament and our future is in good hands.”
Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia will now join Guam (FIBA Micronesian Cup 2022 Champions) as official qualifiers for the Pacific Games 2023 to be hosted by the Solomon Islands. The top two teams from the FIBA Polynesian Cup 2022 will also qualify for the event.