What you need to know:
- Taylor Ongwae sunk a buzzer beater to see Kenya win 74-73 and enter the Afrobasket finals for the first time in 28 years.
The national men’s basketball team, Morans, made history on Friday night when they stunned Angola for the first time in Yaoundé, Cameroon, to qualify for the 2021 Afrobasket Championship finals.
Morans, who needed only a victory against Senegal, Angola or Mozambique, shocked the 11-time Africa champions when Taylor Ongwae sunk a buzzer beater to see Kenya win 74-73 and enter the Afrobasket finals for the first time in 28 years.
The victory against Africa’s most successful team was a clear manifestation that it’s not only basketball with the potential to perform well in major outings but other ‘fringe’ sports too. What sports need is support and sound leadership not only from local federations but the government and corporates.
The victory came a day after Morans lost their opening match 69-51 to group “B” leaders Senegal while Mozambique went down 91-68 to the Angolans. At press time, Kenya still had a match at hand against Mozambique to wrap up their outing.
During the first leg in Kigali, Rwanda, last November, Kenya lost to Angola and Senegal 75-52 and 92-54, respectively, before beating Mozambique 79-62 to be the third in the group.
With the engagement of Australian Elizabeth Mills as the coach, Morans have shown much improvement, especially in their defence, since Kigali. This offers hope of a good performance in the finals due in August 24 to September 5 in Kigali.
However, the team will need proper preparations ahead of the finals, which could be a different ball game altogether.
Notably, with Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF) chairman Paul Otula having retained his post in January for his final term of four years, many expect him to plan ahead.
His first priority will be to have both Morans and the national women’s team qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
The Morans have shown that there is potential by upstaging Africa’s top basketball teams. However, KBF must guard against a slump, similar to what happened to the national cricket team, which reached the World Cup semi-finals in 2003 but has now sunk into oblivion. Another example is the Kenya Sevens team, whose golden days seem to be behind it.