Lynette Matheka in Dar Es Salaam @PeopleSports11
Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) women basketball team recovered from a loss scare to win their FIBA Africa Zone Five Championship opener against APR of Rwanda by half a basket as the competition entered day two at the Tanzania National Stadium Indoor Arena.
The win kickstarts KPA’s title defence as the dockers target a third consecutive title on the regional front after being crowned champions in Tanzania, 2016 and last year in Kampala, Uganda.
Having had an easy time against APR in previous tournaments, winning the encounters with comfortable margins, coach Antony Ojukwu’s charges were caught off guard as the match jumped off.
APR were no pushover and they attacked and defended as hard as the Kenyans did to force a 12-12 outcome in the first quarter. The second quarter was no different as the two teams exchanged blow by blow attacks for another 11 points draw taking the match to the breather on a stalemate.
The five minutes half-time break seemed to have done more good for the Rwandese side as they came back with a bang to post 21 points against KPA’s 16. Trailing 44-39, the Dockers had to unleash their ‘A’ game in the final quarter, timely rebounds handing the Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF) defending champions a 11-5 score for the slim win.
“APR have really improved, they gave us a run for our money. At some point we almost lost the match but my players kept it together despite the tight contest. The final quarter was a do-or-die for us and the teamwork and fighting spirit displayed by my players gives me confidence that we are well on our way to clinching our third consecutive Zone Five title,” said coach Ojukwu.
KPA were missing the services of 2016 Zone Five Most Valuable Player Seline Okumu and KBF’s defensive player Betty Kananu who have switched camp to local rivals Equity Bank Hawks after two years with the Dockers.
However, Ojukwu has in return revamped his side acquiring the services of Mercy Wanyama and Melisa Akinyi from Storms, Beryl Milungo and Racheal Wandago from Kenyatta University Oryx and Linet Atieno who rejoined the side from after professional stints in Nigeria and Seychelles. Cameroonian Helene Fosto has also joined the Dockers.
“The new players had a huge impact in today’s match. Akinyi’s runs helped us penetrate the APR defence and her energy kept us in the match. Wanyama helped us crush the boards and she contributed 14 points through rebounds which was impressive. Fosto’s control of the match could also not go unnoticed,” Ojukwu said.