Fiji’s men’s basketball team defeated 2019 Silver Medallist Tahiti in their opening game of the 17th Pacific Games at Honiara, Solomon Islands this morning, winning 70-45.
Despite being the underdogs, having settled for bronze at the 2019 Games, Fiji dominated from the first quarter, establishing a solid 23-11 lead.
Coach Laisiasa Puamau was happy with the team’s performance.
“We are very happy with the performance. We will take the win,” Puamau said. “The goal for the team now is to build off our first game and continue to improve as the competition goes on. Our focus now is on our next game which is against Tonga on Monday.”
Tahiti clawed back in the second quarter putting 14 points against Fiji’s 10. However, Fiji regained control in the third and fourth quarters, finishing the third quarter 49-35 before sealing their win with an impressive final quarter scoring 21 points against Tahiti’s 10.
Puamau highlighted the strength of the team, particularly commending the leadership of senior players Marques Whippy, Joshua Fox, Mataika Koyamainavure, and Orisi Naivalurua.
“One of our strengths is the leadership of our senior players. Whippy, Joshua Fox, Mataika Koyamainavure, Orisi Naivalurua, playing their third, and fourth Pacific Games. Marcus Whippy, his first Pacific Games was probably when he was 17 years old in 2003 in Fiji. We are quite happy with the leadership role in the team and we hope to build on from today’s game.”
Tyrone Mclennan’s standout performance didn’t come as a surprise to Puamau, given his background as a professional basketball player based in New Zealand. Puamau acknowledged his sporting lineage, saying, “He is from a well-renowned Fijian sporting family. His mother is a Vugakoto – (Vasiti) who played for the Fiji Pearls back in the day. His father was the halfback for the Flying Fijians Jason McLennan. We are very lucky to have him put up his hand up to represent Fiji.”
Despite the victory, Puamau admitted that it was not a perfect performance. The team had faced challenges in preparation, with limited time for everyone to come together before the tournament, and a missed opportunity for a warm-up game against the host team since arriving in Honiara four days ago. Puamau acknowledged areas for improvement and looked ahead to their next game against Tonga on Monday.