The match was still a tight affair by halftime, with Fiji leading 35-32, but the underdogs dominated the third quarter 21-8 to run out comfortable 21-point winners.
Joshua Fox top scored for Fiji with 19 points, Johnny Seruvatu was inspirational from the bench with 17 and Marques Whippy hit three crucial three-pointers to help Fiji draw clear and stay there.
For New Caledonia, captain Rodrique Tetainanuarii hit three 3-pointers in his 16 points and Steeven Sillant also hit three shots from outside the arc and tallied 13 in a losing cause.
Frank Saketa, assistant coach for the Fijian team, was satisfied with the overall effort of his charges.
“We had to come out and play the gold medallists, the defending champions,” Saketa said. “We had a game plan, we stuck with it.”
“In the second quarter we sort of lost concentration and we got it back in the second half.”
“Having a great team atmosphere is a formula that we have used before where everybody is on the same page, and that’s what happened today.”
New Caledonia’s assistant coach, Benjamin Hnawia, said his side was disappointed with the loss after Friday night’s bright start to the tournament, but now look forward to the upcoming pool games against Nauru and American Samoa.
“We knew that today we would have a tough game,” said Hnawia. “But winning the game yesterday (Friday) is not an excuse for today’s loss.”
“We were not in the game from the beginning. We let Fiji take the lead and we had to run and chase the scoreboard to catch up.”
The result comes after New Caledonia began its campaign on Friday night with a hard-fought 77-74 win over home team Papua New Guinea, and now leaves Fiji on top of pool B standings after it trounced Nauru 126-52 on Friday.
In Saturday’s other games Tahiti beat Solomon Islands 76-35, Guam defeated Samoa 79-72 and Papua New Guinea had a strong 90-65 win against American Samoa.
Men’s basketball action continues on Sunday from 14:00, with Papua New Guinea against Fiji at 19:00 looking the best match up of the day.
Source: Pacific Games Media news & Photo