Ugandan basketball has finally arrived at the continental high table. Nearly two decades of persistence bore fruit on Sunday night at the Lugogo MTN Arena.
The men’s and women’s national teams qualified for next year’s Afrobasket and All Africa Games, the latter as champions of the Fiba Africa Zone V Nations Basketball Championship.
“This is historical,” Silverbacks’ Sweden-based guard Kassim Nagwere, hoarse-voiced, said. “It can change the situation. It’s a new beginning.” On a euphoric day that delivered on all its promises, Claire Lamunnu and Stephen Omony rose highest. The past week will be the most memorable for a sport yet to reach its 20th birthday.
MVP Lamunnu scored 24 points as the Gazelles beat Kenya 64-61 to rise from the bottom of a three-team event to the summit in just 48 hours. What a turnaround!
Uganda, Kenya and Egypt finished with two wins and two defeats apiece. Coach Timothy Odeke’s clinched it on points average despite losing their opening two games.
They needed to win by at least three and the result was economic.
If their victory was a nervous one as only Lamunnu passed 10 points, the Silverbacks’ hardly showed any signs of panic in defeating Rwanda 69-61.
With the Egyptians winning all their four games to retain the Zone V title, Omony was not going to be denied in the shootout for the second ticket.
He scored 25 points and six rebounds, visiting the foul-line on no less than 16 occasions where he converted 10. Omony, 34, was irresistible.
“It was a big game for us, the team, the fans,” the forward said. “(To qualify for the Afrobasket) is very special. I had to step up. I couldn’t let this slip.”
Ivan Lumanyika scored 13 points and 14 rebounds to crown a week in which he rose from a footnote to a starter. There was little to choose between the two sides until the third quarter which the Silverbacks won 25-15 and a lead was built it was never going to be lost.
Kami Kabange scored a futile 16 points. It was keeping shooting guard Kenneth Gasana to eight points that did the trick. For Omony, 16 years of wait ended.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor