Historic Kenya’s KPA upset Rwanda Energy Group to storm 2023 AWBL Final

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt, Dec 18 – For the first time in the history Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), the Antony Ojukwu-coached side has qualified for an African Championship match.

The win means KPA has become the first Kenyan team to reach a final of a FIBA Africa clubs competition.

Playing a star-studded Rwanda Energy Group (REG) in a repeat of the Zone V qualifiers final, KPA picked a 101-97 win to become the first finalists of the new-look continental championship.

Skipper Natalie Mwangale led her side by example scoring 8 three-point shots and only once on the paint for 26 points, completing a rare double-double with 13 assists and going one rebound shy of a triple-double.

Victoria Reynolds added 26 points as Hilda Indasi, Rita Aluoch and Madina Okot all managed double digits in points with 15,14 and 12 respectively.

“We had a game plan that I am happy my players stuck to and executed on well, making adjustments where necessary and in the end we emerged victorious. The advantage we carried into the second half helped us remain focused even when they went on runs, coming as close as within two minutes,” an elated coach Ojukwu said after the match.

The Kenyan champions raced to a 8-2 lead but REG responded with a six-point run that brought them to within a point at 9-8 and again at 10-11. KPA went on another run to lead 18-12, with Natalie Mwangale pulling up for a three with 4.20 minutes to go.

The Rwandan side went on a ten-point scoring spree to take the lead at 22-18 but the dockers had Mwangale and Reynolds score three treys to restore their lead for 29-24 in the first quarter action that saw coach Esperance Mukaneza play only her starting lineup.

Destiney Promise Philoxy got action in the second quarter going from the free-throw line and added a layup and 1 to tie the game at 29 in the opening minute of the second period.

Indasi then scored five for a 34-29 as Aminata Samassekou went for a step back trey to give the dockers a 38-33 lead four minutes into the second period.

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Feza Isomi, Philoxy and Chantal Kiyobe made contributions on the paint to reclaim the lead for the Rwandase silver medalists at 39-38. Ojukwu called for a timeout, his charges responded with 5 off the break to lead 43-39 as they held on for a 54-47 lead to the halftime break.

Reynolds and Aluoch made it an 11-point game at 58-47 but Philoxy, who had so far been REG’s best player on the court, pulled up for a jump shot moments later for 58-49.

The 10-point difference remained at 61-51 off a Nia Clouden layup as REG scored 13 in the opening five minutes of the third to trail 71-60. A determined Rwanda went on another run to come to within six pints of the Kenyan champions at 79-73 with 1:23 to play but the Kenyans held on for 83-74 at the end of the period.

REG kept the fight going in a dramatic final period that had REG trailing by just five at 89-84 with 5 minutes on the clock and further down to three at 95-92 with 3 minutes of play remaining.

Okot, scored to take it back to 97-92, Kalanga responding immediately with a layup for the advantage to remain. Philoxy made it a two-point game at 99-97 with a trey that brought her side the closest they had been since the first quarter see-saw.

REG picked two costly fouls that took Indasi and Reynolds to the line, each missing once but it was enough to take them through to the final.

“We had prepared for this match knowing that KPA has good shooters and we needed to stop them to give ourselves a chance to win. Our energy and fight in the opening half was, however, wanting hence their lead and we did not adjust early enough to stop their runs.

It is a tough loss but we have to regroup, refocus and come back better, for the bronze medal match,” Philoxy who played for a game-high 41 points and seven assists said.

Tiffany Mitchell and Clouden finished with 26 and 17 points respectively.

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