Tuesday, August 1
•Angola Vs Guinea
•Egypt Vs Senegal
•Mozambique Vs Ivory Coast
•Uganda Vs DR Congo, 10pm
Uganda Women’s National Basketball team, the Gazelles, have no room for error when they take on DR Congo in a knockout game at the 2023 FIBA Afrobasket in Kigali.
Tuesday’s qualification round will see teams that finished second and third vie for Quarterfinals slots where group winners await.
The winner between Uganda and DR Congo will face off with hosts Rwanda who got a direct ticket to Quarterfinals after topping Group A.
The Gazelles finished second in Group C with a 1-1 record; they lost 66-80 to Mali before shocking 11-time winners Senegal with a 85-83 win.
It was a significant win for the Gazelles who are making their third appearance at Afrobasket, and their first since 2015.
That has given this young squad belief that they can stage a good run into this competition, but DR Congo is the first hurdle they must clear.
“We are happy to finish second out of a tough group, but now the focus is on DR Congo,” said Gazelles Spanish coach Alberto Antuna.
“Congo is a physical and experienced side more than us, they are athletic, played with a 7-9 player rotation, so we need to try and be a team and have an identity to eliminate them.”
Jannon Otto and Jane Asinde who are both averaging double digits in scoring with 20 and 13 points respectively, are the beating heart of this team.
But Asinde’s Achilles-heel has accumulating fouls very early into the game – She had picked four fouls before the second half in the opener and against Senegal and she also played the whole last quarter on four fouls.
(For benefit of new readers, when a player picks five fouls, she is ejected out of the game completely).
Melissa Akullu and Claire Lamunu have given the team physique in the front court, while young guard Lydia Babirye came alive against Senegal.
Brenda Ekone had a good game in the opener but her minutes were limited against Senegal. Hope Akello has proved her worthy in both games everytime she was called upon but the same cannot be said of Maria Najjuma.
Captain Flavia Oketcho at times rushed the offense and made questionable decisions in both games but her quality and experience has never been in doubt.
And it remains to be seen if the unused Rita Imanishimwe and Evelyn Nakiyinji will finally make their debuts at the tournament on Tuesday.
Against Senegal and Mali, Uganda were the underdogs and understandably went with a conservative approach, but it’s going to be interesting to see if the Gazelles will change approach and try to come out of their shell against a team they feel they can beat.
DR Congo Fancy Chances
DR Congo will feel they are force to reckon on in basketball than Uganda even in women basketball.
This is their 15th appearance at the Afrobasket, a competition they won thrice in 1983, 1986 and 1994.
DR Congo, the first African side to feature at the Olympics (1) and have played at the World Cup three times, have their glory days back.
They last appeared at the Afrobasket podium 23 years ago, in 2000 when they won bronze in Tunisia.
At this ongoing tournament, the Leopards finished bottom of Group D but they will feel they were placed in a tough group with defending champions Nigeria and two-time championships Egypt.
They lost 69-35 against Nigeria but were a hard nut to crack in the 78-89 loss against Egypt.
Cecile Nyoka and Mariana Muadi who are averaging 11 and 10 points respectively, will be the stars to watch for DR Congo.
In other games, Mozambique and Ivory Coast will tussle it out to see who faces Nigeria.
Egypt and Senegal meet to determine which team to play Cameroon in the Quarterfinal.
Winner between Angola and Guinea will meet Mali.
How to watch – The game will be live on Sports Premium (StarTimes Uganda)