The opening matches of the Sol2023 Pacific Games women’s basketball competition saw Cook Islands and Tahiti notch early victories on an action-packed Friday at Honiara’s Friendship Hall.
As one of the sports starting ahead of the Opening Ceremony at Sol2023, basketball attracted a vocal crowd on the first day of competition across the men’s and women’s tournaments.
Cook Islands displayed their prowess on the court, defeating Tonga with a commanding score of 76-44. The Cook Islands team, fuelled by a potent combination of skill and determination, outperformed their Polynesian counterparts in a game that displayed the stark difference in experience and depth between the two sides.
Tonga, facing an uphill battle from the start, had only seven players available for the match, compared to Cook Islands’ team of 10.
The challenges were exacerbated by the youthfulness of the Tongan team, with their youngest player aged just 15. Despite these obstacles, Tonga displayed remarkable resilience and tenacity, earning admiration from both fans and opponents.
Cook Islands, with a more extensive roster and a wealth of experience, proved to be too formidable for the young Tongan side. Cook Islands captain Te Araroa Sopoaga expressed pride in her team’s performance.
“It’s awesome and I’m grateful for our team,” Sopoaga said, acknowledging the effort and dedication displayed by her players. She also gave credit to the Tongan team for their commendable performance under challenging circumstances.
Sopoaga acknowledged Tonga’s struggle with a reduced number of players throughout the match. “They did amazingly. Playing with four people and then three people is no easy feat,” she said, reflecting the respect and good sportsmanship that characterised the game.
When asked about her expectations for the upcoming matches, Sopoaga emphasised a focused and pragmatic approach. “We’ll probably just take one match at a time. We’ve got Tahiti next, so it’s going to be a good game to watch.” The captain’s measured response highlighted the team’s commitment to staying grounded and taking each challenge as it comes in this competitive tournament.
In the day’s second women’s match, Tahiti defeated Papua New Guinea (PNG) 84-38.
Maintaining their lead in all four quarters, Tahiti left no room for PNG to advance. Mahinetea Tavanae, Tahiti’s top scorer, shone brightly as she contributed 15 goals to her team’s success. Despite today’s setback, PNG remains optimistic ahead of their next clash against Cook Islands, while Tahiti eagerly anticipates facing Tonga in the next round of Pool A women’s matches on Monday 20 November.
In the opening men’s match on Friday, Samoa defeated Solomon Islands 56-49.
Basketball continues at Friendship Hall on Saturday.
By Lynnissha B. Runa and Walter Sale, Pacific Games News Service