Temps de lecture : 2 mn 🕗
The reigning champions' latest triumph bears the seal of four men, all of whom finished the game with double-digit points.
Mahamadou Diara (24 points, 17 rebounds) and Malick Diallo (19 points, 14 rebounds) were the go-to men for Mali on the court.
And adding their contributions to their team's success were Amadou Doumbia (21 points), Adama Traore (12 points) and Abdramane Kanoute 13 points.
But before they achieved solace, they had to get a cold shower as Benin, even though trailing by 21 points at the end of the first quarter, gave them a run for their money in the second round, finishing with a 13-16.
“Something didn't work properly and the coach made sure we understood what,” says power forward Diallo. “In fact, everyone was playing solo rather than collectively. But the coach talked to us and we focused on playing more collectively.”
But Mali's victory can be explained by their better ability to score from their attempts free-throws (29 out of 48) and from inside the paint.
“After the coach's talk, we were more focused on winning as as a team,” recalls Diallo, who reckons they had a bit of an issue at the first quarter.
Asked about they preferred opponent in the semis. The answer is far from surprising. “We'd rather have Guinea than Madagascar. Most of our players have never experienced this kind of crowd before,” adds Diallo.
Madagascar, on their part, kept the medal dream alive as they overcame pugnacious Guinea in their Quarter-Final Game. And once again, it was Mathias M'Madi who kept the flame alive with 28 points and 7 assists.
In what quickly became a battle of guards between Ibrahima Diallo and M'Madi, the locals quickly laid a hand on the game, forcing it to 18-10 at the end of the first quarter.
And the Guinean point is prompt to say that both teams matched in terms of marking. “My teammates guarded him, his teammates guarded me. So, let's just say the battle happened and they won it,” Diallo noted.
He also goes on to add that Madagascar had tremendous support from the home crowd, who never stopped pushing their heroes. “I think the crowd doesn't count here. You know, crowds are everywhere : once you get used to it, you hear it as a background noise,” Diallo added.
For Madagascar, the crowd served its purpose. But the locals were also more realistic. “They tried to control the game. And we were far from our level. But we did as our coach told us and we held on till the end,” says Lovasoa Ny Aina Andyerson Andriatsarafara, who captains the Malagasy side.
Now that they are through, they each name the team they wish to avoid. And ironically, the two captains want to avoid each other. “Their home crowd, the way they play with the support of the crowd makes Madagascar more dangerous than we think,” suggests Diallo.
For Andriatsarafara, Mali is the team to avoid in the Semi-Finals. “They are the current champions. Things will be very difficult for us. But we will fight with all we have,” he promises.
The Quarter-Finals will continue on Thursday August 11th. Algeria will take on Egypt in the day's opening game while Angola and Senegal will clash later during the day. Semi-Finals are due on Friday, August 12.