Kenya women's national basketball team, Lionesses are the champions of the 2021 FIBA Women's Afrobasket Zone 5 qualifiers after defeating rivals Egypt 99-83 in an entertaining regional final staged at Kigali Basketball Arena, Rwanda on Saturday evening.
Lionesses who had thrown away a first-half lead to lose 107-106 in the group stages when the two sides met first in the tournament, vowed never to disappoint again and true to their spirit and determination took lead and control of the game from the first whistle to the last, leading in all the four quarters to stop Egypt and emerge champions.
The Kenyan girls who were hailed as physically fit and incredible, once again started extremely well, winning the first quarter 29-24 with USA based star Victoria Reynolds top-scoring with 11 points, Felmas Koranga also based in USA scoring eight, with Kenyan based duo of Natalie Akinyi of KPA adding seven points and guard Melissa Akinyi of Equity scoring three points for the first break lead.
In the second quarter, Kenyan girls scored 21 points against Egypt's 18 to go into the first half breather, leading 50-42.
On resumption, Kenya charged forward to score 27 points against Egypt's 24 to take the third quarter 77-66 before wrapping up the show by scoring 22 points against Egypt's 17 in the fourth and final quarter to win the encounter and tournament 99-83 at full time to leave assistant coach Jacob Opel blissful and lauding his girls for a job well done.
"Let me start by congratulating the girls, they really played well, Egypt also put up a fight considering they have been a thorn in our flesh for a very long time but we're really excited for the win today (Saturday). But basically, it is all about persistence, persistence, and persistence.
We never gave up, we just took the lead and ran away with it at full time. We're, therefore, excited to win Zone 5. It was part of our plan and targets that we had. So, there's no time to rest now that we're assured of going to Cameroon in September, therefore, it's back to work.
We just want to celebrate for now and when we go back home, we start working on our team, fixing the problems that we had, and the areas that we were weak. So Kenyans fans back home thank you so for the support we have received from you.
This win is for you," excited Lionesses assistant coach Opel said after the sweet victory. Besides Kenya winning the overall title, individually, the Kenyan girls scooped three awards with Felmas Koranga winning the Best Power Forward award as impressive Victoria Reynolds won two awards, the best tournament forward and tournament's Most Valuable Player (MVP), and receiving her awards Reynolds said.
"We started the tournament really shaky against Rwanda, but we adjusted it and that's why we came strongly against Egypt. For the MVP award, personally, it hasn't hit yet. It's my first time here and I would love to come here again and win it again.
"So, for those who doubted us back in Kenya, well you shouldn't have, but for those who supported us all the way, thank you so much, we will make you proud in Cameroon," super excited and tournament Most Valuable Player Victoria Reynolds said.