Singapore, 2nd September 2008….The Pacific Islanders faced off on day three of the Fisher & Paykel Nations Cup with Papua New Guinea (PNG) coming out on top with a 54-49 victory over Samoa and their second straight victory at Toa Payoh Sports Hall this week.
In the most physical match of the tournament yet, it was cat and mouse throughout as the lead changed hands for the first three quarters. Both teams had spells where they took control but the determination of all 14 players on court kept the shooters busy at either end.
Captains Mona-Lisa Leka (PNG) and Frances Solia (Samoa) led by example in the centre positions giving their teams vocal encouragement and putting their bodies into every challenge.
Leka said, “Samoa are known for their physical stature so we expected a hard game. We did get a bit rattled at the start and let them get ahead at halftime but we pulled together and played our own game.”
Solia commented on her tough opponent, “I’ve played Mona before and I knew she would be feisty. We have a similar style of play so I had to contest everything.”
Samoa went into the break three points ahead (29-26) having pulled back from two points behind in the first quarter (14-16). They came into the third with renewed confidence but both teams let concentration slip and play became a little sloppy with the period ending 37-41 in PNG’s favour.
It took until the final ten minutes for PNG to give themselves some breathing space but Samoa continued to fight and their work rate on court showed how much they wanted their first win this week. This young squad ran their hearts out and with a score line of 49-54 at the final whistle, their coach was very proud.
Linda Vagana said, “I am so impressed with how we have developed as a team this week. We just needed to finish off our shots today and that was what really lost us the game. We were down by quite a bit in the first quarter and came back to take the halftime lead. This is great development for us and the international exposure in this event is just what we needed.
“Our next match tomorrow against Sri Lanka will be very different. We will have to do a lot of work mid-court before the ball gets to their tall shooter and we are all hoping for a win.”
Her captain echoed her sentiments saying, “We are getting better everyday and I am being very vocal and direct with the young players so they can learn from me and adjust to the international standard of competition. The highest level most of them have played until this week is club level which is quite different. The more exposure the girls get to this variety of teams and playing styles, the better.”
Solia continued, “Tomorrow’s match against Sri Lanka will be a huge defensive battle for us throughout the court. We will re-assess after today and I will get the girls going again with my positive encouragement and motivation.”
Two wins from two for PNG means they are gunning for a place in the finals on Saturday but Leka knows that is not guaranteed. “There is still room for improvement and each team is getting better with every performance. Against Singapore tomorrow we must not be intimidated by their speed and flare. They also anticipate the play very well. We will keep fighting until the final whistle and we are going out to win and make up for the loss against them in the finals of the 2006 Four Nations Cup.
Second on court tonight were Botswana and Sri Lanka with the African nation picking up their second win of the competition 68 points to 61.
The crowd were gripped to this game that was neck and neck in the first quarter (16-16) and had only one point in it at the half time – Sri Lanka edging ahead 33-32.
The small but athletic Botswana team were not fazed by the height of their opponents. They used their speed to work the ball around the players and focused on preventing the ball reaching the dominating Sri Lankan goal shooter Tharjini Sivalingam who had a 95% score rate and gave her team 59 of the 61 goals.
Botswana picked themselves up from their defeat against PNG yesterday and played with a lot of composure. They now have two rest days before their final group match against Singapore on Friday so they will be watching the hosts tomorrow as they take on the unbeaten PNG.
Sri Lanka are still in the hunt for a place in the third and fourth play-off on Saturday and have a fired-up Samoa to beat at 8pm tomorrow to guarantee this.
Day 1: Singapore 63 – 66 Sri Lanka
1st:17-13; HT:32-31; 3rd:47-45; FT:63-66
Samoa 34 – 49 Botswana
1st:11-17; HT:19-19; 3rd:28-38; FT:34-49
Day 2: Samoa 41 – 48 Singapore
1st:7-12; HT: 20-26; 3rd:32-37; FT: 41-48
Botswana 49 – 57 Papua New Guinea
1st: 15-14; HT: 24-28; 3rd: 35-44; FT: 49-57
Day 3: Samoa – Papua New Guinea
1st: 14-16; HT: 29-26; 3rd: 37-41; FT: 49-54
Sri Lanka – Botswana
1st: 16-16; HT: 33-32; 3rd: 47-51; FT: 61-68
4th September – OFF DAY