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Defending champions Kenya down Uganda in Afrobasket qualifiers

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Madina Okot in action against Uganda. PHOTO/FIBA
  • Kenya beat Uganda 61-53 in the opening match in Kampala
  • Christine Akinyi chalked a double-double
  • Kenya next plays Rwanda on Thursday

Christine Akinyi led the way with a double-double as the Kenya Lionesses started the defense of their Africa Zone Five Women’s Basketball Championship with a 61-53 victory over hosts Uganda in Kampala on Tuesday night.

Akinyi collected 14 points and 12 assists as two Kenyan players went above double-digit scores in the match.

Mercy Wanyama collected a game high 15 points and had nine rebounds added on while Madina Okot had a game high 20 rebounds with eight points in the brilliant display from the Kenyan girls.

They had to rise from a slowed down third quarter to evade an opening day loss and remain on course to defend their crown and qualify for this year’s FIBA Afrobasket Championship as well as the Africa Games.

The Lionesses had a good start in the first quarter as Medina kept her composure especially on the defensive board to see the defending champions clinch a commanding 16-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Uganda pile pressure in second quarter 

Mercy Wanyama in action PHOTO/FIBA

Uganda piled in the pressure in the second quarter as they were pushed on by the home fans. Jannen Jaye Otto and Hope Akello who both had double digit scores at the end of the game were instrumental as Uganda tied scores with the Lionesses, each bagging 18 in the quarter but Kenya retaining their lead with a 35-24 score at the break.

In the third quarter, Kenya slumped with Uganda forcing many turnovers while Kenya lost possession cheaply. The decision to rotate the squad with Madina and Wanyama rested proved to be a hurting decision as the Ugandans got into the lead for the first time.

With less than four and a half minutes to play, Uganda were 40-39 up after Rita Imanishimwe won a foul beyond the arch and converted all her three free throws.

The Ugandans outscored Kenya 17-9 but the holders had a single point lead at the end of the third quarter, scores standing at 43-42.

In the final quarter, coach George Mayienga brought back all his generals, Wanyama, Madina and point guard Natalie Akinyi all brought back to the floor. Christine Akinyi and Melissa Akinyi’s back to back three pointers saw the Lionesses establish an 11-point lead, much to the relief of Mayienga and his bench.

Kenya widen scores 

Victoria Reynolds in action against Uganda. PHOTO/FIBA

With the scores widening and Kenya cleaner on the board and in possession, Uganda’s comeback was in vain. In the other match, Egypt also started their campaign with victory after beating South Sudan 83-68.

The Lionesses are keen to defend their title and qualify for the FIBA Afrobasket as well as the Africa Games. Coach George Mayienga admitted there is pressure on the team.

“Of course all the teams have come better prepared and they know that we are the champions so they will come hard at us. There will be pressure but we have to ensure we contain it and achieve our targets,” said the coach.

His sentiments were echoed by skipper Akinyi who said; “It is going to be difficult but we are ready for the job.”

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