Brave Morans outlast S. Sudan to sail through
The national men’s basketball team overcame South Sudan 74-68 to complete the final hurdle of what has been a boisterous Afrobasket pre-qualifying campaign on a dramatic Saturday night at a packed Nyayo Gymnasium.
Tip-off was delayed for two hours after fans forced their way into venue and spilled on-court to witness the clash that would decide the bearer of Zone Five’s sole ticket to next round of qualifiers scheduled for November.
Both teams came into the clash on the back of unbeaten streaks and each needed to win the winner-takes-it-all showdown and it was the Kenyans that prevailed the visitors and will join giants Senegal, Angola and Mozambique in pool B of the qualifiers.
Griffin Ligare and Robert Nyakundi combined for 45 points to send Kenya through with Bush Wamukota adding 13 for Cliff Owuor’s charges who were yet again guilty of posting a slow start.
South Sudan started on the front door through Makuel Jambo with two free throws before Ligare and Mutoro responded with double threes.
The visitors build up play was quick as point guard Tiny Puot combined beautifully with Mathiang Muot to reduce the gap to 6-4. Ligare was subject to rough treatment by the opponents as he was constantly being knocked over.
With Kenya on the back foot after Deng Mayot had put South Sudan ahead 11-10, Owuor called for time out to steady ship. It was clear that in resumption of play, Wamukota had the instructions of keeping Mayot quiet which he duly obliged.
From then on,the two big men would be locked in a personal battle. Puot beat the first quarter whistle for a three to reduce the gap to 19-25.
The second quarter was a cagey affair with neither team picking momentum. Kenya gifted possession to the opponents who took them with open arms.
The dangerous Puot was having a field day as he was accurate from the threes outside the area. South Sudan managed to claw their way back into the lead going into halftime 30-29.
Morans had shown a tendency of picking up momentum in the second part of games and this was not going to be an exception. Good defensive discipline and accuracy in attack saw Kenya go into the last quarter leading 52-41. The pressure had finally told.
Captain Ligare stole the show in the last quarter. His shooting coupled with assisting ability kept South Sudan at bay and with their players missing free throws,it became apparent this was not going to be their day.
Ligare would mastermind the Kenyan win and ensure the fans have another swansong in November.