THE FIBA Pacific Youth Basketball Championships tipped off at Latrobe Leisure Churchill on Monday following a frenzy of colour and national pride in Sunday night’s traditional culture show.
As anticipated, tournament favourites Australia and New Zealand made winning starts to their campaigns with booming victories over their Pacific Island opponents.
The Australian men claimed an 84 to 46 victory over Guam, while the women hammered Tahiti 105 to 24.
FIBA Oceania secretary general Steve Smith said the island nations showed great heart in the opening phase of the tournament.
“Everyone was impressed by the intensity of the Guam team who really weren’t intimidated by the reputation and size of Australia,” he said.
The tournament tagline ‘it’s more than a basketball game’ rang true before the opening whistle, with a HIV/AIDS and anti-doping awareness clinic preceding Monday’s play.
Smith said the atmosphere of the competition was electric, stemming from the high energy of the cultural presentations.
“The cultural presentations by the athletes were absolutely fabulous and quite an eye opener, particularly for the Australian teams, (in terms of) how well the young people of the Pacific Islands know their culture and can demonstrate it in song and dance,” Smith said.
“It really was an ice-breaker for the rest of the championships.”
Matches continue all day today in Churchill with the crossover pool quarter finals starting at 11am and the day’s last fixtures scheduled for 7.30pm.
Finals matches will be held on Saturday and full day entry for spectators is $10.
Smith said the FIBA event was an opportunity for Latrobe Valley residents to witness top level basketball in their own backyard.
“(It’s worth the admission) just to get another perspective on international basketball (and) it’s certainly an eye opener and educational; there are some great athletes displaying their skills here and it’s worth coming along to get a taste of what international basketball is all about,” he said.
For up to date results, livestreams and live news from the tournament visit www.fibaoceania.com
First round results
Fiji 79 d New Caledonia 74
New Zealand 99 d Papua New Guinea 49
Australia 84 d Guam 46
Samoa 69 d Tahiti 47
Australia 105 d Tahiti 24
New Caledonia 53 d Samoa 22
New Zealand 104 d Papua New Guinea 21
Fiji 64 d Guam 31