Day 4 - Men's Qualifying Final - Fiji 88 def Samoa 65
The cheer squads were out in force, as two of the more vocal teams, Samoa and Fiji battled it out in a cross over match.
After a tentative start, Fiji’s tournament standout Seru (16 points, 8 steals) ignited his side with an explosive steal and two fast breaks in succession.
A three-pointer from Samoa’s Ene Togia (20 points) was a spectacular way to take the early lead.
Fiji were the more physically imposing side, with 24 points in the paint in the first half, but Samoa’s sharp shooting from long range proved punishing on the score board, as they kept their noses in front.
Samoa’s lack of strength under the ring caused them the inability to finish and much frustration when met with a wall of Fijian rebounders.
Tempers flared between the two passionate sides, as 24 fouls were committed in the first half alone.
Fiji’s pressure on the ball forced 24 points from turnovers, and they tied the game up 24-all.
Samoa’s frustration showed as a sloppy foul resulted in a three-point play, but the Fijian could not convert the morale boosting play.
Sapeti Tufuga (18 points, 9 rebounds) drained another monster from long range, en route to Samoa’s 4 three-pointers in the first half.
Coming out from half time with a one-point lead, Fiji started the second half with strong play in the post synonymous with the teams tournament tactics.
Despite Fiji’s best efforts to pull away, Samoa had an athletic response, and Tufuga converted a strong three-point play to steady Fiji’s campaign.
With the match hanging in the balance between two highly temperamental teams, and a crowd in full voice, the final quarter promised to entertain.
Samoa stood strong against their favoured opponents, but Fiji remained composed amid the onslaught, with centres Pita Sowakula (21 points, 11 rebounds) and Koyamainavure (17 points, 9 rebounds) putting on powerful displays.
The dying minutes of the match, desperation reigned and each play was adrenaline filled with fast breaks, interceptions and hard fouls (48 fouls for the match).
Both sides reached five team fouls, and the excessive stoppages caused the match to run for more than two hours in sweltering conditions.
Regardless of the lead blowing out to 27 in the final minutes, Samoa’s determination shone through, persisting with a full-court press – earning the respect of the Fijian player’s and crowd.
After 10 lead changes throughout the game, Fiji came out the victors 88-65 in a hard fought match.
Laura Mock – The Reporters’ Academy.