Finals Day by Jon Hoyle
Finals day has arrived and it is an opportune time before the medal play-offs to reflect upon the performances and history of the competing teams.
In the men's competition, New Caledonia and Guam will meet in the final as they did at the last South Pacific Games in Suva in 2003. At that SPG, New Caledonia ran out comfortable victors. The Cagou have been the dominant team in the men's competition since the 2001 Oceania tournament and this year they will be going for their third tournament win in a row.
This competition is the fourth consecutive Oceania or SPG event where the Guam men's team has made it to the Gold Medal game. Since 1997 Guam has achieved that feat in each event only missing out at the Oceania Tournament in Fiji in 2001 when they failed to enter the competition. Finishing runners-up in each of those events, Guam will be looking to dictate the tempo of the game to suit their running style to counter the greater height and bulk of the New Caledonians. With a history of being able to rise to the occasion when it matters and coupled with their consistent shooting from the three-point line, Guam are in with a big chance of causing an upset against their more fancied opponents.
The two Melanesian countries, Fiji and Papua New Guinea will duel it out for the bronze medal. Fiji missed out on the bonze medal in 2003 when they were defeated by Samoa and in fact have not won a medal play-off game since they defeated Guam at the SPG's in Tahiti in 1995.
The Papua New Guinea men's team has been the big improvers at this tournament as they have climbed from sixth place in 2003 to the medal rounds this year. The other big improver has been Palau, which by defeating the Solomon Islands finished in fifth place.
The even nature of this tournament has been highlighted by the fact that the Solomon Islands, which finished in sixth place, defeated potential gold medallist Guam, while New Caledonia struggled to defeat seventh placed Federated States of Micronesia during pool play.
The vast distances of the Oceania region causes the equator to become a border between the south and the north pacific, with the Micronesian countries rarely competing against their Melanesian and Polynesian neighbours. This event has proven that the generally smaller teams from the north can compete against the bigger southern teams as they all have improved and begun to develop styles of play that are suited to their body type.
In the women's competition, Fiji has been the dominant team defeating all teams comfortably. While still a very young side, the depth of the playing roster has allowed the starting players to remain relatively fresh after the six games of pool play and the semi-final. In contrast, PNG had had to work hard in a physically demanding match to defeat New Caledonia in their semi-final.
Fiji was the runners-up to Samoa at the SPG in 2003 and will be looking to win their first gold medal at an SPG or Oceania event at senior level since they won the gold medal in Apia, Samoa in 1983. Papua New Guinea have improved from sixth place in Suva in 2003 and have made the gold medal game for the first time since they were the victors at the SPG in Port Moresby in 1991.
New Caledonia and Solomon islands will contest the match for third place. Solomon Islands will attempt to takeaway the bronze medal that the New Caledonians won in 2003 and while they were defeated by the Cagou by twenty-four points during the rounds, a much more competitive score line for this game is expected. If the Solomon Islands were to win the bronze medal it would create history as the first medal of any kind won by a Solomon Islands team at any Oceania or South Pacific Games basketball tournament.
Palau, Guam and the Federated States of Micronesia finished in fifth to seventh place in the women's competition.
Overall, Palau has hosted a very well organised and competitive basketball tournament and it is hoped that all teams will make plans to attend the next South Pacific Games in Apia Samoa in 2007.
Last Modified on 03/08/2005 18:31