By Sututu Katundu
SOUTH Africa boys basketball team were on Thursday crowned Africa Zone Six Under-16 Basketball champions after defeating Mozambique 77-76 in a dramatic clash played the Olympic Youth Development Centre in Lusaka.
And Zambia on the same date made history when they beat Angola 58-49 despite being booted out of the medal contention.
South Africa Coach Xolile Nxumalo said in a post-match interview that his team’s win was testament that junior basketball in his country was coming of age after finishing runner-up to outgoing champions Angola in the previous event.
“It (the win) is great, its history in only our second attempt to win the tournament,” Nxumalo said.
“The chips were down during the game, we were under pressure but we played in the same tempo and stuck to the game plan and knew we could only get better and better.”
Thabo Sithole was South Africa’s most valuable player with 28 points after some flawless shooting.
South Africa rallied from 40-39 at the interval to breakaway by 10 points before Mozambique leveled 74-74 in the last quarter taking the game to the wire.
Mozambique’s impressive duo Hugo Martins and Helton Ubasse each contributed 24 points.
And Mozambique coach Miguel Gwambe saluted South Africa’s defensive play despite being under pressure in the first two quarters.
“We played well in the first two quarters; we congratulate South Africa because they played good after the second quarter. The other problem is we gave South Africa too much respect. Most of the teams we have played in the tournament have lost to us by 60 baskets, once your opponent has 70 baskets it becomes very difficult to beat them. But we know how to win and know how to lose,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mabutwe described Zambia’s win over Angola as historic.
“I am very excited but a bit sad because the boys played their hearts out the whole tournament and this was just confirmation after beating one of the big powerhouse of African basket, Angola,” Mabutwe said.
“Losing to Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa that was a shock and not Angola because I expected us to beat them.”
The tournament came to a close last evening at the OYDC with Zambia boys facing Mozambique and Zimbabwe playing against Botswana.