Rwanda qualified for the semifinals of the FIBA Women’s Afrobasket after beating Uganda 66-61 in a tense quarterfinal clash held at BK Arena on Wednesday night.
The game began with Uganda taking control of the game with an early lead, dominating the first quarter with a score of 22-11. But Rwanda refused to back down and mounted a stunning comeback in the second quarter, stifling Uganda’s offense and outscoring them 16-6 and narrowing the deficit by just a point the Ugandans were leading 28-27 at the break.
The halftime break saw Rwanda’s coach Cheikh Sarr making strategic adjustments on the offensive front. The girls were unstoppable in the paint and hard to penetrate defensively as their incredible 24 points helped Rwanda end the third quarter in an entertaining fashion leading the way with 51-38, hence recording a 13-point lead prior to the final quarter.
The final quarter saw both teams fighting tooth and nail for supremacy. Uganda made a valiant effort to close the gap, scoring 23 points, but Rwanda played their cards well until the last second taking home the win leading 66-61 to the relief of home supporters including President Paul Kagame and Sports Minister Aurore Mimosa Munyangaju who were also in attendance for the game.
Sifa Ineza was in her prime during the East African derby, contributing 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. Destiney Promise Philoxy showcased her skills with 16 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 assist as Janai Crooms Robertson added 15 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists while Assouma Uwizeye was outstanding on the boards, leading with an impressive 13 rebounds.
On the other side, Uganda’s Jannon Jaye Otto delivered a performance, recording a tournament-team high 31-13 double-double while Melissa Akullu added another 16-13 double-double. However, the Gazelles faced a setback when their key player, Jane Asinde walked off the game after just 13 minutes and 41 seconds of playtime after suffering an injury.
Sifa Ineza, who has been instrumental in Rwanda’s success, expressed pride in her team’s ability to prove doubters wrong after their performance in the group phase raised concerns from basketball enthusiasts.
“At the start of the tournament, we faced doubters who suggested that our inclusion was merely due to being the hosts. However, we didn’t let that negative energy affect us; instead, we focused on proving ourselves on the court. As underdogs, we were determined to show everyone what we are capable of, and we did just that. Now, we are fully prepared for the semifinals and ready to continue showcasing our strength and skills,”Said Ineza in a post-game press conference.
Rwanda made a lot of mistakes during the team’s final group phase loss to Angola and coach Sarr did all he could to brief his women to fix all the mistakes that cost them the game. And they listened to him when they pipped Uganda.
“My players have endured a lot during our rigorous training camps. Many of them are college basketball players, not professionals, but they showed a great willingness to learn and grow as athletes. Emotions ran high for all of us because we truly believed in our potential to succeed. Today, we executed well on defense,”Sarr said.
“I am immensely proud of my players’ efforts. Jannon Otto from Uganda is an outstanding player, and we tried everything to contain her, but ultimately, our victory is well-deserved because we fought hard for it,”Sarr added.
Despite the defeat, Uganda coach Alberto Carlos Antuna Leal praised his team’s efforts before stating that Asinde’s injury partly cost his team the match.
“Our approach today was completely different from yesterday’s game. We made quick adjustments based on our opponent’s play in the first quarter, but things became more challenging after Asinde’s injury. Despite the difficulties, we adapted both offensively and defensively.”
Rwanda will now face Nigeria in the semifinals after the latter beat Mozambique 59-52 in the last quarter final fixture of the day.
Source: The New Times