Kenya qualify for FIBA Women’s AfroBasket 2021
Kenya booked their ticket to a second straight FIBA Women’s AfroBasket and seventh overall when they defeated favourites Egypt 99-83 on Saturday in the Zone 5 Qualifiers Final at the Kigali Arena.
The Lionesses, who started the tournament with a surprise 77-45 loss to hosts Rwanda, were written off at the beginning but recovered to beat debutants South Sudan 66-48 before giving up a 25-point lead against Egypt to lose 107-106 in a tightly contested game.
Kenya then went into the Semi-Finals hoping to revenge against Rwanda and when the latter led 8-0 in the opening three minutes of the game, head coach George Mayienga switched things up to implement a woman-to-woman defence forcing the Rwandan side to turnover the ball and the resulting transitions helped the Lionesses to catch up with Rwanda and eventually lead 25-11. The rest is history.
The Lionesses came into the final aiming for revenge against the North Africans who not only edged them by a point in the Group Phase but also defeated them in the Zone 5 Final two years ago in Kampala, Uganda.
Kenya’s two captains Melissa Akinyi and Rose Ouma lead the celebrations
Speaking exclusively to FIBA.basketball, one of the two Kenya captains Rose Ouma said, “It means a lot to us in the sense that, we came into the tournament with a lot of people doubting if we could do it.”
“Starting off badly seemed to prove them right but on finishing with the chip proved that this is a special group of ladies and gentlemen who were determined to prove our critics wrong and made it work through resilience, determination, hard work and belief in our abilities as individuals and as a team.
American-born Victoria Reynolds, who was reconnecting with her motherland for the very first time, put up an incredible performance in the Final scoring 25 points, making six assists, five rebounds and four steals to walk away with both the Most Valuable Player and Best Small Forward Awards at the regional competition.
Reynolds was exceptional for Kenya
Her teammate Felmas Koranga was awarded as the Best Power Forward for her relentless displays on both ends of the court throughout the tournament amassing an outstanding double double with 24 points, 13 rebounds, three steals and one block to guide the Lionesses to a well-deserved victory.
South Sudan’s Nyaduoth Gach Lok was the Best Point Guard while Tierra Henderson from Rwanda was the Best Shooting Guard and they were joined by Raneem El Gedawy who walked away with the Best Center Award.
L-R: Lok, Henderson, Reynolds, Koranga, El Gedawy
Meanwhile, hosts Rwanda defeated South Sudan 83-56 in the third place playoff inspired by captain Henderson who netted 19 points, made an impressive 10 steals, made eight assists and picked three rebounds.
Her teammate and point guard Odile Tetero supplemented that with 21 points and four steals on an afternoon that she posted her best performance in the six-day tournament.
Kenya now joins the 2019 Semi-Finalists including reigning champions Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Mozambique as well as hosts Cameroon and Zone 2 champions Cape Verde. The other five slots will be filled by the winners of Zone 3, 4 and 6 and FIBA Africa will provide further communication on the remaining two slots.
Ouma said that, “We are now going to get ready for Cameroon. We want to enjoy this moment for now and get back to the drawing board because the AfroBasket is tough and we have to be ready and start preparing for it now.”
Ouma is excited about playing against the best teams in Africa
Kenya’s best performance at the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket was back in 1993 when they were finalists losing to Senegal 89-43 having finished fifth at the 1986 edition when they made their debut at the tournament inMaputo, Mozambique.
They finished 12th at the 2007 edition in Senegal, 10th in 2013 in Mozambique and 11th in 2019 in Senegal.
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