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The golden quartet of Afrobasket

BOITUMELO RANTAO 

FORTY games – over 2016 minutes – of blood, sweat and some tears during thrilling action at the African Basketball Championship (Afrobasket) have produced the continent’s top four basketball nations. 

The qualifying window, which took place in the two cities Monastir, Tunisia and Yaounde Cameroon, produced four teams, reigning Champions Tunisia, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Egypt who outclassed their group mates. 

These four teams have yet to lose a fixture in the six qualifying games played and seek to take their brilliant form into the Afrobasket finals held in Kigali, Rwanda from August 24 to September 5.

Tunisia, the winners of the last Afrobasket held in 2017,commanded group A with first window wins, in November 2020, against Madagascar (89-52), Democratic Republic of Congo (61-50), and Central African Republic (80-62). 

In the second qualifying window the Tunisians refused to drop the mantle defeating Central African Republic (63-58), Madagascar (78-51), and Democratic Republic of Congo (73-68) in a controlled and comfortable fashion. Led by point guard Omar Abada, who averaged 10.5 points per game, and center Salah Mejri on the defensive end who contributed 8.3 rebounds per game and 4.5 blocks per game.

Talented title hopefuls, and one-time Afrobasket champions, Nigeria overcame an early scare in the first game of the second qualifying window (75-70) against a South Sudan team searching for blood. 

Nigerian shooting guard Keith Omerah spoke highly of his teammates and their title ambitions “Everyone on the team trusts each other and we all believe in each other. So that made it easy for us to play with confidence” said Omerhah.

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“We will continue to work as hard as we can and try to play at the top of our games. We have to make sure to finish the season healthy and then we will prepare for a big summer ahead for Nigerian Basketball.” the guard concluded.

Nigeria would continue to secure wins against Mali and Rwanda in the remaining fixtures to book their ticket to Rwanda untouched and unfazed.

The pharaohs of Egypt, keen to unseat their fellow North African counterparts, safely lead group E. The five-time Afrobasket champions undoubtedly staked their claim for a sixth title which will see them as the outright second most successful team at the continental showpiece, breaking a current tie with Senegal. 

Egypt encountered Cape Verde, Uganda, and one-time Afrobasket champions Morocco in the first window. The team’s second fixture against Uganda in Monasitr, Tunisia was called off due to members of Uganda’s Afrobasket envoy testing positive for COVID-19. Egypt advanced to the Kigali showdown the only team with a 5-0 undefeated record.

Two-time Champions Côte d’Ivoire led group C defeating a passionate Cameroon, Guinea, and Equatorial Guinea. Guided by high-spirited leader Stephane Konate, showing no signs of slowing down at 40 years old, averaged 13.8 points throughout the qualifying campaign. 

“When you’ve played this game for long, your decision-making gets better and often this is very helpful for the team,” the Ivorian leader told FIBA Basketball

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The veteran’s guidance fueled his team to great heights throughout their crusade and hopes to add a gold medal to sit next to 2009 Afrobasket silver medal at the conclusion of the upcoming tournament.

By The African Mirror

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