12 January 2006

KENYA: KBF plan for early start to Zone Five ball championship

Kenya men's and women’s basketball teams will start early preparations for the qualifying rounds of the 2007 All Africa Games.

According to Kenya Basketball Federation chairman Agina Wesonga yesterday, the KBF has mandated the newly constituted fundraising board chaired by former chairman Morris Aluanga to started soliciting for funds to prepare both teams for the Zone Five elimination matches.

He said the fundrising board had worked hard last year to raise Sh 640,000 which enabled the national teams to participate in the East, Central and Southern Africa senior Challenge Cup in Kampala, Uganda in December.

Although Kenya lost the men’s regional cup by half a basket to hosts Uganda, Agina said theystill had a team good enough to overcome Egypt in the Zone Five eliminations rounds which would qualify them for the eighth All Africa Games.

The KBF chairman said Kenya had underrated Uganda after winning all their preliminary round matches only to be shocked by the hosts in the final.

He said Kenya had not fielded a strong team in the regional tournament after most of the stars were unable to turn up for training due to their involvement with clubs in the post-season play-offs.

"Five experienced national team players did not make it to Uganda. Their presence this time should see Kenya qualify in the Zone Five eliminations, but only if they start early preparations,’’ Wesonga said.

Kenya men’s team took part in the fifth All Africa Games in Egypt in 1991 while the women’s team was in Abuja, Nigeria forthe 2003 African Games. The women’s team was dropped from the 1999 championship in South Africa due to wrangles within the KBF leadership which saw long serving former chairman Joseph Kimani fail to defend his chairman’s seat. Former Eagles player Aluanga was elected chairman unopposed.

The Egyptian men’s team has been Kenya’s biggest threat in Zone Five eliminations. The women’s side has had little opposition to qualifying. Other Zone Five member countries are Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burundi.

Meanwhile, Nigeria and Senegal will represent Africa in the 2006 women’s World Cup in Brazil.

Nigeria and Senegal booked their tickets to the global event after qualifying to clash in the Africa Championships final held in Abuja, Nigeria. The Nigerians, popularly known as "Lady Tigers", finally rocked 10-time champions Senegal 64-57 in an explosive final.

Nigeria, who won their second continental title, had earlier secured a place in the World Cup following their 78-66 victory over Democratic Republic of Congo in the semi-final tie. Senegal, who had won the Africa championship four times in a row between 1974-1981, knocked out Mozambique 66-37 in the second semi-final of the 19th edition of the African championship.

In the final, Nigeria, who enjoyed home support, got off to a good start to race to a 22-18 first quarter lead against the experienced Senegalese. But the Senegalese reorganized in the second and third quarters in which they led 17-13 and 16-12.

Led by captain Mfon Udoka, Nigeria threw everything into the match in the fourth quarter to punish the Senegalese 17-6 to celebrate a famous victory.

Against DRC in the semi-final, Nigeria led 42-33 at half-time. The Congolese, who fielded the US Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star Mwadi Mabika, took a narrow 49-47 lead in the third quarter. However, errors and loss of concentration combined to deny the "Lady Tigers" a quick resurrection as DRC went up 51-50.The sides locked scores twice at 55-55 and 58-58 forcing Nigeria to change system of play. Funmilayo Ojelabi gave Nigeria hope when she buried a big three-pointer for the hosts to lead 69-64.

Nigerian captain Mfon Udoka was voted the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). Teams which took part in the championship were Mali, Cape Verde, Gabon, Niger, Angola, DRC, Senegal, Mozambique and Nigeria.

from http://www.nationmedia.com/dailynation

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