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ANG/SEN – Angola capture gold, headed for Olympics
BAMAKO (Afrobasket Women) - It's not how you start, but how you finish.
That says it all for Angola, who bounced back from a hammering to Senegal in their opening game at the Afrobasket Women and beat the defending champions 62-54 on Sunday to win the gold medal.
The result means that Angola's women, for the first time in their history, will play at the Olympics.
Angola’s Nassecela Mauricio, the high-flying, 31-year-old power forward, was named MVP of the Afrobasket.
She had 12 points, five rebounds and three assists in the title game.
Angola also got 23 points and six rebounds from Sonia Guadalupe, their 26-year-old shooting guard/small forward.
Tournament hosts Mali, who had been upset by Angola on Saturday, salvaged their Afrobasket with a 71-62 triumph over Nigeria.
Mali and Senegal will play at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women.
Angola’s victory sparked celebrations back in Luanda, where the country's Minister of Sport, Goncalves Muandumba, paid tribute to the team.
"We have to be happy because this title is a great satisfaction because it's the first achieved by these players who deserve all of our affection and respect," Muandumba said.
Angola had crashed to a 63-42 defeat in their first meeting with Senegal on September 24 but coach Anibal Moreira didn't panic.
Instead, he blamed the heavy setback on fatigue, saying his players were worn out from the build-up and travel to Mali.
The Angolans struck back with a vengeance, overcoming Rwanda, Nigeria and Guinea to clinch a second-place finish in Group B behind Mali.
Moreira's side then thrashed Ivory Coast 72-51 in the Quarter-Finals and rode the momentum of that big win to a 56-51 upset of Mali.
Senegal, who had been imperious in all of their games, including thrashings of Democratic Republic of Congo (85-54) and Nigeria (89-63) in the last eight and Semi-Finals, lost their unbeaten record to Angola.
The Senegalese trailed 32-26 at half-time and battled back to knot the contest at 45-45 with 10 minutes remaining.
But Angola shifted into a higher gear in the fourth quarter for the most famous victory in the national team's history.
There is some irony to Angola’s triumph as it came just over a month after the men’s national team, the powerhouse on the continent and a regular at Olympic Games, lost to Tunisia in the Afrobasket Final in Madagascar.