Tahiti and Tonga Qualify for Pacific Games 2023
KAITAIA (New Zealand) – Tahiti and Tonga qualify for the Pacific Games 2023 after five days of basketball action at the FIBA Polynesian Cup 2022.
Tahiti are gold medallists with Tonga in silver and Samoa in bronze.
Tonga took care of business against American Samoa on the final day of the FIBA Polynesian Cup with Stephen Paea, Viliami Foketi and Siale Bain-Vete all significantly contributing to the win. Marcus Alipate had a consistent tournament and is exited about the future of Tongan basketball as they are now set their sights on the Pacific Games 2023.
“We have lot of guys that are young, hungry and want to play and for us, to come from having six guys in 2018 to a squad of 10 here and a lot of the guys are young so it’s a blessing,” Alipate said. “We also have a women’s team which is great, we are just trying to build each season and year.
“We have come a long way since 2018 and we have a lot of good guys and a leadership group and I’m just happy with a good team win and we are happy to finish the tournament like this.”
On his own performance, Alipate said; “It felt good, as long as the team is winning, I’m happy, whatever role I have to play, I will do it and I’m excited to see the future of Tongan basketball.”
“It means a lot to qualify, beating a great team like Samoa and playing hard against Tahiti here this week, we are just really happy with the brand of basketball we are playing. We won bronze in 2018 so it’s amazing to go one better this year and get silver.”
Staging a spectacular comeback, Tahiti once again pipped Samoa at the post to win FIBA Polynesian Cup gold and qualify for the Pacific Games 2023.
In an epic come back, Samoa led by 23 points before Tahiti’s Captain, Ariirimarau Meuel, inspired his team with a double-double, 33-10, to go through the tournament undefeated.
“It was a tough game, as we expected,” Meuel said. “We know that Samoa are a really good team and we struggled in the first half by plus 20. We battled as a team to get through those 20 points and get the win.”
Heading into the half-time break, Samoans Wayne Sio, Einer Thompson and Shareef Ahmend Saipaia were playing elite basketball that had them in the box seat for FIBA Polynesian Cup glory. Tahiti had other ideas with a calm message of ‘team belief’ being delivered in the locker rooms. “The message was ‘don’t panic’, we still have a whole half to come back so we just needed to believe in ourselves, and it worked,” Meuel said.
Larry Teriitemataua finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds with Maui Roopina stringing together another brilliant individual performance with 14 points. Tahiti will now look to the Pacific Games to be hosted by the Solomon Islands.
“We have to now prepare well for the Pacific Games in 12 months’ time to get the best result we can for Tahiti.”