Samoa book semi-final place with big win

Samoa were dominant throughout their 99-63 win over American Samoa in their third game of the FIBA Men’s Polynesian Cup at the N.U.S. Gym last night.

Coach Aukisitino Stephen Schuster had emphasised fitness in the leadup to the tournament, and the benefits of this were on display in the win.

“It’s a very physical and demanding game,” Schuster said.

“Our big bench helps us a lot.”

Samoa did major damage in all the hustle stats, scoring 13 more points from turnovers, seven more second chance points and 22 more fast break points than their opposition.

Bigs Theodore McFarland (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Ryan Paia (22 points, 11 rebounds) continued their good play at the tournament so far, with their work at either hoop giving Samoa a 26 point advantage in points in the paint as well.

Schuster said they have been developing those two players since they were 17.

“Now they are starting to peak so it’s worth our while, especially because they are locally based.”

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They looked to hit ahead in transition at every opportunity, and this commitment to pushing the pace meant they scored at least 97 points for the second game in a row.

“For our last two we’ve had a chance to analyse our opposition,” Schuster said.

“The first game (a 70-71 loss to Tahiti) was hardest because we hadn’t seen the quality of our opposition yet.

“Otherwise, so far so good.”

The big bench also allows Schuster to adapt his team to the opposition.

“We can match our bigs against the slower teams, or play the faster guys if we have to,” he said.

Yesterday’s win confirms a place for Samoa in the semi-finals on Saturday.

“We still need to work on the mental side of the game,” said Schuster.

“Management of the shot clock is something the local players aren’t completely used to.”

Tonight the Samoan men’s basketball team will play for a chance at the top seed in those semi-finals against the winless Tonga, at 7pm at the N.U.S. Gym.

“I don’t want to make a prediction, but we’ll do our best,” said Schuster.

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