Team from Samoa takes basketball title despite challenges

A local basketball team claimed the Open Men's 2020 Samoa Cup title on Saturday in New Zealand despite major disruption to their preparation for the tournament.

The West Side Basketball Association fielded teams in all six divisions: Under-15 Boys, Under-17 Girls, Under-17 Boys, Under-19 Boys, Open Women's and the victorious Open Men's side.

Association President, Salevana Paramore, headed up the contingent of over 100 players, parents and team management that travelled to Auckland for the Samoa Cup, held from the 2nd to the 4th of January.

West Side's Open Men's team, which featured national team players, Theo McFarland, Jirhel Levy and Devante Hunt-Keil, defeated Space Jam, 50-45, in the final to finish over five other teams from New Zealand and Australia.

“It was a great game, a great final," Paramore said.

The game was a back-and-forth affair right up until the final few minutes.

“We got up by three points and we controlled the clock," Paramore said.

The victory was all the more impressive given what was a severely disrupted build-up to the tournament.

Samoa's measles epidemic and state of emergency orders meant it was illegal for anyone under 19 to attend public gatherings for a full month.

This made it impossible for all the West Side teams to come together for training.

“We told everyone to just get fit, because they have the talent," Paramore said. 

"Local talent is pure and natural, they just need to be fit."

Samoa's lack of indoor court space also remains a barrier, although one West Side thought they had solved.

“We booked Gym Two [at Tuanaimato] for our training, for West Side," Paramore said. 

"We were willing to pay the price, but in the end they used it for storage for all the furnishings from the Pacific Games. So we had nowhere to go."

Those over 19 were able to train occasionally at the Latter Day Saints Gym in Lotopa.

“To get together and just go through some plays and stuff like that," Paramore said.

"The talent and skills are already in Samoa. We just need the management to put it in place and use those talents that we have."

While each individual had to pay for their own flight to New Zealand, West Side was able to cover transport, accomodation and food for its teams through sponsors and fundraising.

“It was hard work, with families and friends we fundraised for the trip," Paramore said of West Side's third Samoa Cup campaign.

Many are staying on in New Zealand to make the most of the summer holidays, so the club will celebrate its success at the end of the month.

Looking ahead, Paramore said they will focus more on the youth levels of the sport going forward:

“We’re gonna build them up, the local ones."

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