Madagascar's Botou wants to keep the AfroBasket Qualifiers' momentum
ANTANANARIVO (Madagascar) - Despite having missed the train to the FIBA AfroBasket 2021, Madagascar have learned a lot from their presence in the Qualifiers.
And although they are facing the sad reality, the Malagasy are willing to work even harder to reach new heights.
The islanders finished their Group A Qualifiers campaign with an overall 0-6 record.
What is hurting them most is that they sometimes had a hand on victory.
"During some games, we would lead, but when we had to go for the money time, we would suddenly lose our means," said Madagascar captain Vallery Olivier Botou, who dreamt of featuring at the African high-mass of basketball.
More than that, Botou talks about what they couldn't achieve in Monastir, Tunisia, home to Group A's Second Round of the Qualifiers.
The Ankoay, as they are now called after the bird of prey originating from the North-West of the island, travelled to Tunisia with the idea of grabbing two precious victories that would have sent them directly to the Final Round in Kigali in August, but came back with none.
"This third window was when we performed best. But we couldn't come up with the right moves to finish," says Botou.
Citing the game against hosts Tunisia, he admits that they were overwhelmed at some point. At first, they matched with the reigning African champions in the first quarter (13-14), then 20-27, before being completely taken over in the last two quarters (8-17, 10-20).
Sitraka Raharimanantoanina topped Madagascar's table with an average 4.7 rebounds per game
"We tried to stay close, and keep them at hand. But they have the experience and they outplayed us with that," Botou added.
Size also mattered in Monastir, where Madagascar were outplayed by their opponents. And the captain thinks that naturalizing some players could be an avenue to explore for their next international outings.
"Maybe this is what we need. We suffered a lot on rebounds, for instance. So, bringing in one or two players could help," he adds.
But the match they might regret the most is the one against Central African Republic (CAF).
Madagascar led all the way, only to be overtaken in the last quarter. But this was the moment Kiady Mijoro Razanamahenina and Sitraka Raharimanantoanina decided to step up, when they rose up to 29 points and 5 rebounds respectively, featuring among the game-toppers.
Kiady Mijoro Razanamahenina scored a game-high 29 points against CAF
"Seeing them perform at this level is quite reassuring for Malagasy basketball. We need young players to level up and take up new roles for the national team. Plus, these two show the viability of the training and development programs in Madagascar," notes the shooting guard.
Through all those downs, they still find time to dwell on what they have achieved. Madagascar indeed passed the Pre-Qualifiers with flying colors, registering a 4-0 winning streak against Zambia and Zimbabwe, something they are proud of.
"Knowing we made it to the Qualifiers is an achievement in itself. We believed in ourselves, but our opponents were stronger. And we learnt some lessons along the way. So, it’s not half bad."
Now that they have had a taste of what FIBA AfroBasket Qualifiers are, the Malagasy are willing to go for something else.
Botou is talking about the FIBA AfroCan, where they could also feature, should they get things right this time.
"This could be a good way to bounce back. I mean, we learnt so much from our travels and the games we played during the past year. We just can't let this go to waste," Botou concluded.