Afrobasket: Gazelles Hold On To Stun Senegal

Lydia Babirye was outstanding in a historical win. (FUBA photo)

Saturday, July 29
•Uganda 85-83 Senegal

Uganda Women’s national basketball team, the Gazelles, have shocked giants Senegal at the ongoing 2023 FIBA Women Afrobasket in Kigali, Rwanda.

Uganda recorded a 85-83 victory, in what is the country’s remarkable win!!

Youngster Lydia Babirye held her nerves to score clutch points when Senegal threatened to steal the win down the stretch.

Jannon Otto scored 21 points while Jane Asinde who played with four fouls in the last quarter, finished with 20 points off 8-of-15 shooting.

There was huge contribution generally from everyone – Claire Lamunu had 9 points and as many rebounds while Hope Akello and Melissa Akullu managed 8 points each.

Aya Traore and Jannay Dillard got 29 and 21 points respectively in a losing cause for Senegal.

Trailing by two points in the closing seconds, Senegal’s game winning three-point attempt rimmed out, and Claire Lamunu was in the right place to cling on a rebound.

She was fouled in the process to send her on the line where she reluctantly missed both, and it was a little too late for Senegal to fire a shot.

And the final buzzer was greeted with wild scenes as players, coaches and fans, who had staged a carnival-like atmosphere inside the arena, celebrated what looked like an impossible achievement.

The performance was a vast improvement from the team’s 66-80 loss against Mali on Friday, and just another reminder of the progress Uganda has made since they last played at Afrobasket in 2015.

Despite captain Flavia ‘Flirsh’ Oketcho still the surviving member from the 2015 team, there is great optimism that this team is destined for bigger things.

How Gazelles Silenced Senegal

Senegal were outright favorites going into Saturday’s game, given their history and quality.

They had finished fourth in the previous Afrrobasket 2021, after two back-to-back losses in the final in 2019 and 2017.

Coming to Kigali, the West African nation made vast improvements in their roster including the addition of naturalised Jannay Dillard in a bid to reclaim their lost glory.

Away from history and quality, Senegal were fresh after missing out on action on Day One.

Granted, the Gazelles who had put on a good show in loss to Mali, remained buoyant.

Senegal led 21-17 after the first quarter but Jannon’s 11 points helped Uganda cut the deficit to three points at halftime.

Uganda continued to improve, matched Senegal’s intensity blow by blow to lead 57-56 going into the fourth quarter.

The lead opened to eight, as Asinde improvided a couple of times to some shots off balance.

But Senegal responded with threes everytime Uganda threatened to pull away.

And the game was tied 72-all with 1:11 on the clock.

From timeout, with Gazelles possession, Jannon turned over and committed unsportsmanlike foul on Jannay Dillard who made both to leave Uganda trailing by two with Senegal’s possession.

Lydia Babirye made a steal in the middle, and forced a foul on Jannay.

The 18-year old held her nerves to convert both free throws to leave the game evenly poised with 54 seconds on the clock.

Jane Asinde later robbed Arame Niang but Babirye fumbled, and she was fouled as she tried to force a lay up.

After missing the first free throw, Babirye made the second to hand Uganda a 1-point lead with 30 seconds on the clock.

Another steal by Claire Lamunu for Asinde to free Babirye for an easy layup and drew a foul to make an and-one, and Uganda went 85-81 up with 13 seconds on the clock.

Senegal called a timeout, and on return, Dillard quickly laid up and drew a foul to go on the line, 85-82.

She hit the rim and luckily Fatou Dieng picked a rebound and found Aya Traore who fluffed a three-pointer for Lamunu to grab a rebound as the clock expired on two seconds.

Lamunu missed both free-throws, and Senegal had less on the clock to advance forward before the buzzer.

Uganda out-rebounded Senegal 59-40 despite committing more turnovers 25-20 in a see-saw entertaining game that saw the lead exchange hands six times.

What Next:

Uganda has completed their two games, with Mali and Senegal facing off on Sunday

The top teams in each group will advance directly to the Quarter-Finals.

The teams ranked second (2nd) and third (3rd) will play the qualification round for the Quarter-Finals while the top team will automatically reach the quarterfinals.

With the 14-point difference opening loss against Mali, it’s difficult for Uganda to finish at the top of the group whatever result from Mali-Senegal game.

But the good thing is that second and third placed teams have a chance to play for a place in the Quarterfinal.

If Uganda finish second, which is a given if Mali beats Senegal on Sunday, the Gazelles will face off with DR Congo in the Round of 16.

But if Uganda finish bottom, that is if Senegal beat Mali, they will meet the second team in Group D which is either Nigeria or Egypt, in the Round of 16.



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