"This is like gold for us" — Samoa's women basketball coach on bronze medal win
Samoa's women basketball team has taken out the bronze medal after beating Guam to come out 87-85 victors in the 2019 Pacific Games.
In a match that went down to the wire on Wednesday at the Gym 2 Faleata Sports Complex, the Pacific Games host nation came back fighting after losing 84-49 to American Samoa on Tuesday.
The loss to American Samoa snuffed out their gold medal chances but the women's team were determined to get a medal and that showed in their performance on the court on Wednesday.
But nothing separated the two sides when they met with their defence very tight, seeing Guam leading 57-52 by the end of the third quarter.
In the last quarter, the two teams went on a full court press defence, vying to lead the scoreboard, and a three points shoot out went down. In the last 22 seconds of the game, the scoreboard was tied 85-85.
But with both teams turning the ball over and the defence tight, Samoa's star player Malama Leaupepe proved her worth as an x-factor player and made the final two points jump shot, which gave Samoa the win against Guam and the bronze medal.
Leaupepe scored 50 points and recorded 21 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals in a stellar performance.
Samoa women's basketball coach, Lisa-Pauline Epa, said words cannot describe how proud she is of the girls' hard work on and off the basketball court.
"This is like gold for us, we came in here not knowing anyone and everyone just worked really hard for the games and I’m just so proud of everyone.
"The girls have been working really hard, on and off the court and we’ve been doing early morning sessions, even throughout the tournament, even after the wins and some tough losses, they still came back and we were on court at 6:30am the next day," she said.
Despite the late assembling of her basketball team, she said she is glad they have achieved a medal for Samoa which solidifies the team and confirms that their hard work has paid off.
Epa believes that the performance of Samoa's women basketball in the 2019 Pacific Games should lay the foundation for the sport in the country, which Samoa can build and capitalise on with many young talent emerging.
"I’m really excited the majority 70 per cent of my team are under 23, from a 15-year-old to Malama who is 23 and still young and plenty of Pacific Games left in her but then we’ve got two older ones left as well that come with experience.
"This is just a start I believe for the women’s program in Samoa, we can only build on it and I’m excited to see it evolve and see what great place we have out there representing Samoa."