American Samoa basketball women make history
Apia, SAMOA — American Samoa has won its first ever Pacific Games women's basketball title after a strong finish helped them overwhelm defending champions Fiji 74-53 in the gold medal match.
The US territory raced out to a 24-13 lead after the opening quarter but could only manage six points in the second as Fiji closed the gap to just two points at half-time.
However that proved to be a temporary blip as American Samoa outscored their opponents by 19 points in the second half to seal a historic win.
Captain Sarah Toeaina led from the front with 29 points and 12 rebounds.
"We knew it was going to be a tough match and so we knew it also was a rematch (of the final) from the last Games so we took that, we ran with it and we didn't want to come out and let them hit us first, so we always said the first three minutes come out gunning," she said.
What makes American Samoa's victory all the more remarkable is that the entire squad was making their international debut in Apia and two weeks ago most of them had never met each other.
Sarah Toeaina said despite all 12 players being based off-shore they had an instant connection on and off the court.
"We are all from the United States so many of us are from California, Utah, Oregon, Washington and some from Hawaii but you couldn't even tell that we just met a couple of weeks ago. You would think that we'd been playing together for years so I think that was one of the things on the upside."
Sarah Toeaina said some players had never been to American Samoa before being selected for the Pacific Games and it was very special for the squad to visit the territory and meet their family members, some for the first time.
Meanwhile host nation Samoa came from behind to pip Guam 87-85 in the women's bronze medal match.