Morans down South Sudan to progress to Afrobasket qualifiers
Kenya men's basketball team The Morans on Saturday night qualified to represent Zone 5 in the Afrobasket Qualifiers after beating South Sudan in Nairobi
The national men’s basketball team Kenya Morans put up a sizzling performance to see off South Sudan 74-68 in Nairobi on Saturday night and advance to the qualifiers of the 2021 FIBA Afrobasket in November. Griffin Ligare put up a captain’s performance especially in the fourth quarter as the Morans glided to victory.
The game had to be delayed for close to two hours after the Nyayo Gymnasium became extremely full with fans spilling all the way into the court and measures had to be put in place to control the crowd before the game tipped off at almost 8:30pm, two hours after slated time.
And when the action finally got on, the Morans lived up to their billing, taking maximum use of their home court advantage to slay the strong South Sudan. The Morans finished top of the five-team tournament having earlier beaten Tanzania, Somalia and Eritrea.
Ligare exploded for 26 points, putting in a massive shift for the home side. His tally included five rebounds, five assists and two steals.
The Morans were in control in the first quarter, limiting the lanky South Sudanese power forwards and going to the first break with a 25-19 lead. But the neighbors came roaring back in the second quarter and pushed on by the large South Sudanese community living in Kenya, they levelled the scores at 25-25 just a minute and 48 seconds into the second quarter.
They kept on their push and it proved to be a tough encounter between the two. The Morans sunk two quick shots to take their tally to 29-25, but Makuei Jambo sunk a beauty of a three pointer before Emmanuel Malou ran behind the defence to plug in a two-pointer at the buzzer.
South Sudan went 30-29 up at halftime, the first time in the tournament that the Morans were going to the second break trailing.
Whatever coach Cliff Owuor told them inside the locker room seemed to work as they returned for the third quarter like wounded lions. Tom ‘Bush’Wamukota put up an immense show in defense, doing well to pick the rebounds and shield the Kenyan rim.
The introduction of France based Robert Nyakundi spiced things up for the Kenyans with the burly point guard with the body of a power forward doing well on the threes to aid Kenya to a healthy 52-41 lead heading into the final 10 of the game.
It was a tie of nerves and emotion in the final quarter and with 2:22 to go, the South Sudanese had narrowed Kenya’s lead to just two baskets, scores standing at 69-55. But a range of two three pointers from Ligare and one brilliant drive saw Kenya pull off and Nyakundi put the marker with a brilliant three pointer, 29 seconds left on the clock.