Fiji bounced back from their extraordinary defeat to Samoa yesterday to register their first win of the competition.
The Fijians drew level on points with Sri Lanka and Samoa in Group E – and at least until the pair play each other later today – by beating Natalie Milicich’s team 71-56.
In this second group stage, the top two in Group E – comprised of those who finished bottom of the initial groups – will face off to play for 13th place, while the two at the bottom compete to finish 15th.
Both teams lost all three of their matches in the first group stage. Fiji, though, had won all five of the previous meetings between the pair at World Cups and also won all three games in a three-match test earlier this year, back in April.
It was Fiji who started the first quarter on top, with goal shooter Lydia Panapasa – denied a last-second equaliser in the 55-54 defeat to Samoa yesterday – wasting no time in firing her side three goals in front.
Singapore pulled a couple back courtesy of two close-range finishes from Kai Wei Toh, but Fiji were beginning to dominate.
Panapasa had six within three minutes of the first centre pass, and had added 11 more to that tally by the time the first period came to a close – achieving a 100% rate of accuracy.
Singapore kept themselves in contention with 12 goals of their own and did well in attack when given the chance, although Fiji were edging the possession statistics and led by 10 after 15 minutes.
That 10-goal advantage was cut to nine during the second quarter as the teams went in for half-time with the scoreline standing at 35-26 to Fiji.
Matila Vocea replaced Panapasa for the second quarter and while she netted nine times, her accuracy was only 82%. Fiji could have led by more had they taken slightly more care in the final third, but were still content to be nine goals clear in the contest.
Having been pegged back a little, Fiji were keen to take control of the fixture once again. Their centre Kaitlyn Fisher, who was earning her eighth cap for her country, got the second half of the game under way, and with Panapasa now back on the court, Fiji began to pull away again.
Singapore’s experienced goal shooter and team captain Charmaine Soh, now on 108 international appearances, did her utmost to drag her team forwards as she helped her side score 14, but Fiji were proving to be too strong.
Vocea improved as she switched to goal attack, while Panapasa clinically extended her 100% record in front of the net to 32 goals from 32 attempts.
Singapore, with 15 minutes to claw back a 12-goal gap, knew they had a tough task ahead of them to get anything from the match. So it proved, as they scored 16 times themselves in the final quarter, but conceded another 19 in the process.
Panapasa finished the game having netted 41 times, missing twice in the final 15 minutes, though by this point the result was secure.
The first quarter – where Fiji put themselves 10 goals clear – proved to be the difference, with the remainder of the game much more evenly contested.
Group E will conclude with Fiji playing Sri Lanka and Singapore facing Samoa on Wednesday morning. The final placings matches for all four teams will then take place on Friday morning.
Fiji’s Adi Vakaoca Bolakoro said:
“It’s amazing (to win our first match of the tournament). I’m excited for the girls. We wanted to win this game. We executed our goals – we’re very happy. The girls kept pushing to the last whistle even though we were leading.
“I think after losing yesterday we went back, we had to regroup again and then we wanted to win today. Sri Lanka (tomorrow) is going to be a hard, tough game as well, but we are hoping to win again.
“It’s about keeping possession, maintaining our possession, and executing every ball that we get.”