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Road to the Pacific Games: Tonga Men
The 2019 Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa (July 8-17) is the official Qualifier to the FIBA Asia Cup Pre-Qualifiers. The top 2 teams will qualify to the next round of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualification phase.
Apia (Samoa) - Undermanned and all, Tonga still announced a roaring FIBA return in the 2018 FIBA Polynesia Cup where it defied the odds with an improbable bronze place finish against tough competition in the region.
The magical run in their first tournament back in 18 years since they last stepped foot on the hardcourt officially, also catapulted the Tongans back to the ever-prestigious Pacific Games.
Tonga will be up against an expected strong cast of foes including 2018 Polynesia Cup champion Tahiti and reigning Pacific Games titlist Guam together with Solomon Islands, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, and Fiji.
Tonga participated in the FIBA Polynesia Cup after an 18-year absence and had a campaign for the ages.
Like any other fairy tale though, the fitting triumph was not handed to them on a silver platter as the Tongans had a rude welcome on their comeback.
Tonga suffered a stinging 70-71 loss to American Samoa before being overwhelmed by eventual champion Tahiti, 80-102, and runner-up Samoa, 100-132.
Fortunately, the Tongans saved the best for their last hurrah as they fended off the Cook Islands, 107-86 in the last preliminary game to catch the last playoff bus. In a winner or bust scenario, Tonga delivered the finishing touches with a nail-biting 79-77 revenge victory against American Samoa in the bronze medal game, punching their ticket to the Pacific Games.
POSSIBLE KEY PLAYERS
Marcus Alipate, Siale Bain-Vete, Obadaiah Paea
Alipate is the undisputed no.1 gunner, not only of Tonga but arguably in the entire Pacific.
Highlighting the return of Tonga in basketball, the former St. Thomas standout in the USA torched the Polynesia Cup with a tournament-high 39.2 points per game while rounding out his scoring exploits with 5.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.
The scoring outburst which included a Polynesia Cup record of 55 points built on 14 treys against American Samoa towed him to the All-Star Five together with Samoa duo of Sapeti Tufuga and Theo McFarland; and Aririmarau Meuel and Rehiti Sommers of Tahiti.
Tipped to backstop Alipate, who was also a former player of Canterbury Rams in the NBL, are Bain-Vete with double-double norm of 15.4 points and 13.2 rebounds and backcourt partner, Paea who scattered 25.4 points and 3.0 assists in the Polynesia Cup.
Also, not to be left behind are the three other cagers Lopeti Piutau, Aminiasi Tamafua I and Villami Taufu who made the bronze medal run of Tonga possible.
2015 PACIFIC GAMES PERFORMANCE
The Tonga men’s basketball did not participate in the 2015 Pacific Games.
As loud and proud their comeback was in the Polynesia Cup last year, expect a stronger return from the Tongans especially in the all-important quadrennial sports spectacle in the Pacific.
The Tongans will be parading a more complete squad which will be a boon for the island nation.
With the element of surprise on their side, Tonga will be one of the dark horse teams in the upcoming Pacific Games
For more Pacific Games information visit the official website here.