AS the curtain closed on the successful Fiba Zone VI Games for both men and women on Saturday held at the University of Pretoria’s indoor sports centre, the South African basketball should have lots to cheer about with the men’s team qualifying for the All Africa Games to be hosted in Mozambique.
The South African men’s senior team were unfortunate, though, to miss out on qualification for the Fiba African Championship or Afrobasket, to be held in the Ivory Coast after being edged out 78-74 by their more polished Mozambican opponents the last game of the competition at the weekend.
Mozambique were lead to victory by a game-high 18 points by forward Ocatvio Mogolico and had seven rebounds four of which came at the offensive end in the game, while his teammates, Custodio Muchata, Stelio Nualia and Selvio Nuaila scored 15, 13 and 11 points respectively. While South Africa where given a fighting chance by point guard Vincent Ntunja and centre Cedric Kalombo, who both scored 15 points in the game.
South Africa also struggled with the Mozambican attack as the team collected 36 team fouls -nine which came in the first stanza – compared to the 21 recorded by their neighbours and the team fouls proved to be their undoing at the end of the game with, Neo Mothiba, Thabo Letsebe, Thabang Kgwedi and Kalombo, who all collecting five team fouls and thus being ejected from the game in the fourth quarter.
Mozambique took charge of the game in the first quarter taking a 14-12 lead, but South Africa would come back strongly in the second period, with Kalombo, unleashing his full repertoire of basketball skills scoring seven points, four coming from inside the perimeter and a three pointer, where he beat a Mozambican opponent with a between the legs crossover and then he positioned himself to score. Ntunja, who came off the bench and offered explosive penetrating runs into the Mozambican defence to notch up six points as South Africa took a 35-32 lead going into the penultimate quarter.
South Africa started the quarter well and looked good for their lead and Kalombo, who was three for three from outside the perimeter scored to extend the host nation’s lead. Ntunja scored a two pointer but was fouled and completed his three point play at the line. But at 55-46 South Africa’s Achilles Heel came back to haunt them as the foul count increased and Mozambique started growing in confidence they started making runs into the homeside’s defence.
Two three pointers by Letela and Augusto Motos brought the visitors back into the game and with the scores at 57- 54 and it was make or break for both sides going into the final quarter. South Africa found themselves on the backfoot as Kalombo, fouled after accumilating five fouls as the hosts began to breakdown on defence and were outscored by 24 points to 17 as Africa went on to lose three more players, thus ending whatever hope they had of beating Mozambique and also losing out on qualifying for the Afrobasket competition.
Meanwhile in an earlier game also on Saturday night the South African senior women’s team lost again to the Zimbabwean counterparts 53-49 in a game which the hosts needed to win to qualify for the All Africa Games.
With Mozambique already qualified as hosts South Africa had to battle it out with their cross border neighbours for a spot in the Games. The hosts battled hard with Nosipho Njokweni and Philadelphia scoring 13 and 10 points for the ladies but it was not be as the Zimbabweans, who were lead in scoring by Dorcas Marondera with 14 points, Rachel Makoni and Charity Chigumba who both scored 11 points, at the end had just enough fire power to carry them through to victory and winning themselves a ticket to Mozambique to compete in the women’s Baketball competition of the All Africa Games