PNG takes care of business against Solomon Islands in opening game
Apia (Samoa) – Papua New Guinea dominated the Solomon Islands, taking an easy 86-48 win for a roaring debut in the 2019 Pacific Games Men’s Division Monday at Gym 2 in Apia, Samoa.
Dead serious on its title bid this year after settling for just a fourth-place finish in 2015, PNG made sure to debut in style as it quickly conquered the Solomon Islands in the first half with a commanding 45-24 lead.
There was no looking back for PNG from there on en route to a dominating 38-point win.
Marty Leahy led the way with 14 points, three rebounds and three steals in just 20 minutes of play for PNG which was just the better team in almost all departments especially with huge upper hand in points off turnovers (34-9), steals (19-14), points in the paint (36-8) and bench points (43-23).
PNG also had an impressive 55-percent clip from two-points courtesy of a balanced attack as three more players scored in double figures.
Lloyd Wright posted 12 more markers while Coni Muri and Moses Apiko chipped in 10 apiece.
Matthew Boardman served as one of the bright spots for Solomon Islands with 12 points, two rebounds and four steals which made it to the Pacific Games through a wildcard slot granted by FIBA.
Meanwhile, Fiji nearly wasted an early lead before unleashing a strong finishing kick to fend off Tahiti, 80-66.
The Fijians seized control in the opening frame, limiting Tahiti to just six points for an early 18-6 lead to set themselves for a potential coast-to-coast victory.
But Tahiti, proving its pedigree as the Polynesia Cup champion, came back swinging in succeeding frames to close in within 51-55 entering the final canto.
However, Fiji, fortunately, had remaining ace off its sleeve as it launched a quick 19-7 salvo highlighted by ace Marques Whippy’s free throws to break the game wide open at 74-58 in the last three minutes which pretty much sealed the deal for them.
Whippy hauled down a massive double-double of 19 points and 16 rebounds on top of four steals to pace Fiji who dominated Tahiti in rebounding department, 56-26.
Henry Tabuduka also added 17 markers off the bench in just 18 minutes of action while Joshua Fox posted 15 points, nine boards, three assists and two steals for the Fijians who are seeking to complete an unfinished business this year after a Silver Medal finish in the 2015 Pacific Games.
Ariirimarau Mueuhl proved to be as good as advertised with 21 points and three rebounds but it was not enough to lift Tahiti into a huge upset win over favorite Fiji.