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Basketball: Kenya Morans give Kenyans reason to smile again

SPORTS By Elizabeth Mburugu | July 29th 2019
Kenya Team's Desmond Owili (right) plays against Ben Mbala of Cameroon team during friendly basketball match at Nyayo National stadium's Gymnasium on Tuesday night Nov 27, 2018. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Kenya Morans lost 61-82 to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to finish second in the just concluded inaugural FIBA AfroCan basketball tournament in Bamako, Mali.

Kenya’s main man and tournament top scorer Tyler Okari scored a match-high 21 points but his effort was not good enough to help Kenya overcome DRC.

DRC took the first quarter 29-18 but Kenya recovered to score 19-7 in the second and take a one-point lead at halftime.

On resumption, the Congolese ruled the second half scoring 29 points against Kenya’s 10 in the third quarter and 17-14 in the fourth period to be crowned champions.  

Okari and Tom “Bush” Wamukota made it to AfroCan All-Stars first-five list that also had tournament Most Valuable Player Maxi Shamba who anchored DRC’s campaign, his teammate Jordan Sacko, and Edson Ndoniema from Angola.

Okari won the top scorers award while Wamukota grabbed the best blocker accolade.

Kenya coach Cliff Owuor lauded his charges saying even though they did not win the trophy, they had fought a good fight and the country can build on Morans’ performance to improve the standards of the sport in the country.

“The final result didn’t go our way but the boys played well and showed courage. Finishing second in continental competition is a good achievement and as a country, we can build on that to improve our standards,” Owuor said.  

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Despite falling to the Congolese, it was no mean feat for the Kenyan boys, who had a brilliant outing downing Africa’s top-ranked nations to reach the final.

Kenya shook off the underdogs tag in Group B that also had Africa’s top nation Nigeria and champions DRC, who were ranked 11th.

Perhaps it was their 81-69 thrashing of Africa’s number one Nigeria at the group stage that inspired them to fight on and finish second overall.

Kenya men's Basketball team. [Courtesy]

Kenya became solid and improved with every match they played.

Shooting guard Okari’s basket at the buzzer guided the Kenyans to victory over the fancied Ivory Coast. They won 85-83 to reach the quarter-finals.

Having eliminated Ivory Coast, who are seeded eighth in Africa, Tunisia were next on line for the Kenyans.

Eager to make a good account for themselves, Kenya had no regard for the North Africans, who are fourth on the continent, as they battled to bag the last four slot with an 82-76 overtime victory.

The Kenyans showed courage playing to a 68 ups score in regular time before dominating the overtime period scoring 16 points against Tunisia’s eight.

In the semis, Kenya defeated another African giant Morocco. Kenyans dominated the Moroccans from the onset chalking a towering 30-point victory as they downed their opponents 96-66.

Angola beat Morocco 88-71 to complete the podium.

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