Kenyan sides post mixed results at Belgrade event
Kenya basketball sides RBK Twende and Noga ladies made an impact despite both sides eliminated in the group stages of the Red Bull Half Court World Final in Belgrade, Serbia at the historic Belgrade Kalemegdan.
Despite the elimination the men’s side who went to the event without a coach, left with their heads high after they had champions Italy in the list of their casualties. Captain Matthew Kibet said after the event: “It’s always a pleasure interacting with international players, getting to see how their system of players compares to our system of play and building the networks to see what exactly we can borrow from each other.”
RBK Twende were the first team to get in action from as they welcomed the debutants North Macedonia with a 10-9 win in what was seen as a potential banana skin game due to the fact all their opponents played professionally.
Olang got injured in the dying embers of the second game with the game locked at eight all thanks to Griffin Ligare’s 3-pointer but a sublime lay-up by Kibet was not enough to ensure the second win in as many matches as the Asian scored a 3-pointer to dash the hopes of the Kenyan hopes.
With a man down and a game to go, RBK dug deep in the last group game as they vowed to play for their fallen soldier Olang and true to their word they didn’t disappoint. It’s as if a switch was switched and all the patterns and system that were not working all of a sudden began to work and all the shots that were missed this time were pinpoint as they stunned the defending champions Italy 18-8. Their exemplary performance earned them a third place finished but were level with Sweden as the second-best losers and had to play a playoff match to decide a spot in the last 16 but fell short due to fatigue losing.
“The game was really first paced. We were three men without one which made us lose our stamina much quicker but we put up a good fight. However, Sweden were the better team and they won,” said Kenyan International James Mwangi.
The two wins registered by RBK Twende ensured they made history by being the first Kenyan team to secure two wins in both the men’s and women’s categories with Kibet admitting they bowed out of the competition with plenty of pride.
“The team chemistry was fantastic. We were definitely more fluid in our offense, defensively we were solid. Our first group games we had lower scoring games and that helped us in the first two games however, we need to have a higher percentage shots conversion.”
It was a moment of immense learning for the Noga Ladies as they bowed out winless and had to play half of their games with one less lady after captain Ashley Minayo suffered a sprain in their second group game against Sweden.
“It was very hard because we hard no sub. This is 3x3 so it’s very intense and you need that rotation to get the best out of every player but we didn’t have that luxury and it costed us a lot,” said Agnetta Kambua Noga ladies player.
“Ashley is one of the best players in the team and it costed us a lot. Her absence left a huge gap in the squad but we managed to do what we can. I wish her quick recovery.”
Griffin Ligare was the silver lining for Kenya as he booked his ticket to the 3-pointer shootout by emerging the best with 18 shots out of 25 shots.
The top three player will battle it out tomorrow in the final as the men’s and women’s 3x3 teams enter the quarter finals before proceeding to the semifinals then the finals.