Rwanda qualified for the semifinals of the 2023 FIBA AfroCan thanks to a hard-fought 73-63 victory over hosts Angola on Thursday.
The hosts thus failed in their quest for a first AfroCan title, while Rwanda can afford to dream of a historical podium finish.
It was a must-win game for the Angolans, who were outplayed by Rwanda in the opening stages of the encounter.
Rwanda went into half-time with a six-point lead (38-32).
It took all the concentration and desire of Angola, buoyed by their fans to get back into the game for good in the third quarter.
But Rwanda’s determination at the end of the game, coupled with Angola’s attacking errors, opened up a gap for the team coached by Yves Murenzi.
Glofate Buiamba cemented Angola’s grip on the match when he scored the free throw that brought the Angolans level with Rwanda in the third quarter (47-47). And Emanuel Sebastiao was on hand to give the Lusophones the lead with 3’28 remaining in the quarter.
However, far from giving up, Rwanda rallied to cling on to Angola’s heels (61-60), leaving the hosts very little room for manoeuvre.
But in yet another attacking burst, Rwanda regained the lead (68-63), then made it 71-63 with 51 seconds to go, thanks to Jean-Jacques Nshobozwabyosenumikiza, who scored twice, in quick succession, from the three-point line to give his team the lead.
Rwanda understood that victory would come through a better rebounding presence. And that’s exactly what they did, with 28 offensive and 22 defensive rebounds. In the same vein, they scored 13 of the 17 shots they were allowed.
Angola, on the other hand, were only able to score 10 of their 24 free-throws, while taking just 45 rebounds.
And Rwanda took full advantage of the many loose balls (22) by scoring 21 points! Enough to make the difference in the match.
Ntore Habimana put in another XXL performance, scoring 14 points to help Rwanda hold off Angola, while two Angolans, Braz Macachi and Keneth Manuel, each passed 10 points to the Rwandan defence.
But the real hero was Nshobozwabyosenumukiza. With a 7-0 run in the dying seconds of the match and 22 points to his name, the Rwandan point guard made the difference and gave his country a historic qualification.
“I’m very happy to be playing for my country. We followed the instructions which were to prevent any turnover. And the result shows,”Rwandan hero Nshobozwa said after the game.
Rwanda will now face Cote d’Ivoire in a double-header for both sides, with the declared hope of finally clinching a ticket to the AfroCan Final this Sunday.
Source: The New Times