Philip Onyango, Shimba Hills girls’ basketball head coach, is already dreaming of lifting the regional title next Saturday when the East Africa secondary school games come to an end here.
Onyango is so confident, considering his team’s pre-championship results. Shimba Hills, who are the national champions, has a bulk of former Mombasa High School players, who won the basketball title during last year’s edition in Kigali, Rwanda.
“We’ve had so many pre-championship matches as well as participating in numerous tournaments and I have confidence that we will be able to win this tournament,” said Onyango.
Coaching Mombasa High, Onyango had led the former coastal queens to an impressive sixth win in a row at these games and he says it will be the same script, but with a different cast.
Have new players
Shimba will be buoyed by their 59-21 and 58-26 wins they had against Changamwe Rollers and Strathmore University last week, as they face Langata High School, Don Bosco from Burundi and Uganda’s Chibuli School in their group stage matches.
With Don Bosco having two of their first five players in the national under-20 team, that’s the quandary that might make the Kenyans to toss and turn until Monday morning.
“We have new players as this is also a new side. Burundi as well as Nabisunza of Uganda have equally strong sides, but this is a better team than last year’s, in fact, I think it’s the best side we’ve ever assembled for these games,” said an emphatic Onyango.
Since he started winning the East Africa title in 2004, he has never known defeat and the coach doesn’t think it (defeat) will come this time round.
“It’s been great seeing our players work so hard and watching the fan support build. We must continue, as a nation, from where we left last year,” he said.
Changed its name
The coach said he will maintain the bulk of his side, who won the national title in Embu in April, but has a few form one students to gain experience from the games.Shimba Hills routed Tigoi of Western 114-54 in a girls’ final to ensure the trophy remained in Coast Province. Mombasa High who won it last year were not in Embu since their school changed its name to Khumbar.
It was captain Purity Adhiambo, who was Shimba’s pillar at the games and she’s beaming with confidence here in Fort Portal.
“We have a good team, mixed with experience and talent. We will play our heats out, and I’m sure in the end, the title will come back to Kenya,” said the form four student.
Shimba have had tremendous training sessions, especially with Oklahoma Baptist University women’s basketball coaches John Marcum and John McCullough.
Kenya is also represented in girls’ basketball by Tigoi and Langata High School. Mercy Wanyama, younger sister of Harambee Stars midfielder Mcdonald Mariga, is one of the leading players in the Langata side and she can’t wait to take on other teams. “This is one of the happiest moment in my life,” Wanyama said.
Making it to the East Africa games has always been my dream,” she said and I thank God that we have managed this feat,” said the 17-year-old forward.
“I’ve been admiring how my brothers, Victor Mugabe and Mariga, perform at the national team and it is my hope that one day I’ll also don the national colours in basketball,” said the form three student at Langata.
The Kenyan teams will find out by next Saturday evening if a shiny tournament appearance or a lump of coal awaits them in that package.