Temps de lecture : 6 mn 🕗
KIGALI (Rwanda) – Mali successfully passed the Senegal test on the last day of the Group Stage of the 2023 FIBA Women's AfroBasket.
The Western African nation outplayed their rivals 72-49 for the first time in eight encounters.
Mali started out slowly, but gained momentum as time passed by.
Senegal, on the other hand, lost all sense of attack as they watched Mali build up their lead.
Mali thus sent out a strong statement about their ambitions, especially since they convincingly won their two opening games.
This is the first time since 2015, when Senegal last won the Women's AfroBasket title, that they lost their two opening games. But they went on to be crowned African champions some days later.
Sika Kone was the cornerstone of Mali's success
TURNING POINT : While Senegal were having a good run, Mali waited patiently to turn the tables around and take advantage of the Lionesses complacency at both ends of the court.
With a two-point deficit hanging over their head, Mali leaned on a collective effort to claim their lead, while Sika Kone proved to be a worthy addition to the roster as she gave her side a 33-28.
Though Cierra Dillard tried her best with a series of three successful free throws, her efforts availed to nothing as Senegal entered a dry spell that saw them score only 8 points and watched as Mali built up confidence to definitely take the lead on the game with a 26-point run.
HEROES : Nearly every name from the Mali squad could cited here as the whole team contributed in one way or the other to Mali's success.
But Sika Kone, who was donning the Malian uniform for the first time at the 2023 FIBA Women's AfroBasket, stood out from the rest.
Knowing that her name was on all the lips around, she had a slow start to the game, but quickly climbed into the double figures as she used her skills to make a difference on the court.
Along her 18 points, she grabbed 8 rebounds and 4 assists, thus justifying the “Double Menace” nickname she was dubbed with earlier in her career.
Mali outplayed Senegal with a team effort in the third quarter
STATS DON'T LIE: By denying Senegal a successful run in the third quarter, Mali convincingly sealed the deal to claim the first place Group B and qualify for the Quarter-Finals.
By the third quarter, Mali's bench had produced 34 points, a figure that would rise to 36 by the end of the game.
Mali also scored more from the turnovers (24 points), while Senegal finished 7 points shy of their opponents score.
The winners also built their success on free throws. Mali had their opponent on their knees with an impressive 22 out of 30 free throws.
BOTTOM LINE : With this win, Mali send out a strong and loud statement. They are on a good run and they will make everything in their power to bring home their first continental trophy since 2007.
The Eagles have also shown that they can rely on individuals and on team spirit when pursuing an objective.
On another note, they still have to wait to knw whether they will clash against Angola or Guinea in the Quarter-Finals.
THEY SAID : “Today, the objective was to win the game, try to be better at ever game. It was important for us. We had a tough beginning, but we came back by playing as a team. It's been a while since Mali last the Women's AfroBasket. But there's no pressure. We only have to be ourselves and take one game at a time. Our next opponent will be either Angola or Guinea. But they won't be easy opponents. At this level, every team here is good enough to cause us some trouble. We only have to focus.” – Sika Kone, Mali power forward.
“It's a very tough loss. But I think we came on the court slow. And in the third quarter, we lost out touch and we let them get the rhythm. On the other hand, we were intimidated by their paint presence. We didn't fight back like we should have in the paint. I think the AfroBasket has lots of teams that can play in the paint. We had to do a better job of fighting back. We need to regroup and focus on our next chances. We took two bad losses, but we still need to fight for our pride. I believe we can still go all the way, there's always a chance. In 2015, they lost the first two but they came back and won the tournament. So we need to regroup and correct our mistakes and have our fans supporting us.” – Cierra Dillard, Senegal point guard.
ADDITIONAL NOTES: Earlier during the day, Angola claimed a very much-needed and sought-after victory against hosts Rwanda 74-68. The Southern Africans however needed to go through overtime to make it past a very pugnacious host.
Ending the first quarter with an 8-point lead (16-8), Rwanda kept the forcing and headed into half-time with a 16-point advantage. But Angola eventually found a way to come back in the game, and took the lead (44-42).
Both teams vying for victory left the fans on the edge of their seats as Angola managed to level up to 64-64 while Rwanda claimed the fourth quarter.
But the hosts collapsed as they only managed to score 4 points while Angola kept pushing to score 10 points, just enough to claim the win.
CAMEROON STAY PERFECT
In the day's opening game, Cameroon beat Guinea 70-50 to claim the top spot in Group B and become the first team to qualify for the Quarter-Finals.
Monique Makani, Hermine Ngueko and Marina Ewodo accounted for 19, 16 and 14 respectively, while Guinea's Fatoumata Jallow and Masseny Kaba were both points leaders with 17 and 15 points each.