Guam’s semifinal win gives them the chance to break a run of five consecutive Pacific Games gold medal game losses, while Fiji has gone one step further than it managed in 2011 in New Caledonia where the team lost in the semifinals.
It will be the second meeting for the finalists, in the playoff stage of the these Games Guam beat Fiji 75-72.
First semifinal – Guam v Tahiti
Guam entered the semifinal having lost to Tahiti 76-66 in the first game of the tournament and looking to make that right.
“I have to say that [loss] motivated us to not lose again and to meet them again and make the adjustments needed to play the right way,” said Guam head coach E.J. Calvo (GUM) after their semifinal victory.
In the game on Saturday, the teams adjustments worked from the outset, allowing them to win unexpectedly easily.
On offence, the Guam team force-fed their big-man Tai Wesley in the post and he delivered with some good play down low, going to a spin move on most possessions that the Tahitian defenders could not counter.
Wesley finished with a 26 point, ten rebound double-double, and he was well backed by Joseph Blas’ (GUM) 22 points on 77% shooting.
On defence, their rotations were crisp allowing them to put pressure on Tahiti’s outside shooters, forcing them into an abysmal 1/21 from the three point line in the game.
With the score 38-22 at halftime, Tahiti started hard doubling Wesley on the catch in the post in an effort to slow him down in the third period, but he did a good job of finding his open teammates, who knocked down their shots to put the game out of reach.
The game ended with a 89-57 win to Guam.
Second semifinal – Fiji v Papua New Guinea
In the semifinal between Papua New Guinea and Fiji, it was Fiji that got off to a fast start, in part aided by PNG losing their key player Apia Muri to the bench after he picked up three quick fouls in the first four minutes of the game.
When Muri returned, the score was 30-17 and even at that early stage it was clear the game was out of hand for the hosts.
Fiji only extended its lead over the rest of the game with turnovers and poor transition defence letting PNG down.
Fiji went on to win it 82-52 led by Marques Whippy’s (FIJ) huge 32 points (14/18 from the field, 3/6 from three) and Joshua Fox’s (FIJ) heady all-round play and scoring.
Fox ended the game with 15 points, five rebounds and three assists.
Gold medal game – Fiji v Guam
Fiji will be looking to avenge their playoff loss to Guam, and there is every chance that the team will manage it.
One of the keys to the final will be how Fiji deals with Guam’s key big man, Wesley.
The Guam centre’s size and footwork will prove hard to counter, something that Calvo is banking on.
“I know no-one in this tournament can stop Tai,” he said.
“[Wesey] does not have to score all the points, but we like going inside and kicking out to our shooters.”
“If our guards take care of the ball and hit shots then everything starts cooking.”
However, despite Fiji’s earlier loss, playmaking wing Fox is confident the team can overcome Guam in the final.
He says controlling the ball, and Wesley, is the key to winning.
“We’ve made it a goal for us to keep our turnovers low, and when we do that we are pretty good, and it showed today,” he said after the semifinal.
“[Wesley is] a great player, it’s going to be hard to contain him. But all you have to do is contain, I trust my bigs so I think we will do well tomorrow.”
“I’m looking to kick it, and trust my teammates to knock down shots.”
By Joel Fitzpatrick, Games News Service