Only DR Congo standing on Moran’s path to history

Men’s national basketball team, Kenya Morans, continue their fairy-tale campaign Saturday as they face Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)  in the final of the inaugural Afro-CAN championship in Bamako, Mali. 

The match will be a repeat of Group B opening match that saw the Kenyans fall to the highly ranked DRC side by 17 points in a 82-65 outcome.

Kenya’s journey has been one upset after another, qualifying for the final after edging out Morocco 96-66 on Thursday night. DRC, who are unbeaten so far, saw off Angola to book a date with Morans.

As the home boys march on to the court tonight at 9:30pm, all Kenyans will be cheering and waiting with bated breath for the squad, christened ‘Bamako 12’ by fans around the country, to beat DRC and lift their first ever continental trophy. 

In the group stage match, DRC dominated in most aspects to score 26 points against Morans’ 20 in the first quarter. The second quarter was closely contested with DRC winning by one point 17-16 to head to the break with a seven-point advantage.

Slow, but precise with their plays, DRC extended their lead to 10 points at the end of third quarter. The final quarter ended 24-17 for the win. 

“We have grown better with each match and we are not in the final by chance.  We had not played any team from Congo before the first match but now we know what to expect from them,” said assistant coach Carey Odhiambo who guided the team in the first match.

Bakken Bears Tylor Ongwae top scored in the first three matches against DRC, Nigeria and Ivory Coast in the quarter-final qualification match. 

However, with teams out to stop him, Tom ‘Bush’ Wamukota stepped up to finish off Tunisia in the quarter-final, scoring 22 points.

In Thursday’s semi-final against Morocco, Ulinzi Warriors’ Eric Mutoro was the thorn in the opponent’s flesh as he made 32 points leaving the North Africans searching in vain for a comeback strategy. 

“All our players are ready.  We will need aggression and attention to detail to win this match.  The players are under no pressure and we have encouraged them to relax and have fun on the court and so far, so good. Their players have an advantage physically. We are swift. Despite being slower they are smart but we will match up,” said Odhiambo. 

He added: “Whoever wants this win the most will take it. As coaches we are doing everything to make sure that will be us.”

Our goal still remains the same, to win the next match. Our focus has not changed and we need to be grounded to the end.”

The best Morans have done in the past is reaching the semi-final of the 1987 All Africa Games in Nairobi where they went on to finish fourth and produced the best player of the tournament, the now Kenya Lionesses head coach Ronny Owino.   

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