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Five things we learned from the Women's AfroBasket 2021
LEEDS (Julio Chitunda's African Message) - For eight days, we watched the best the 12-nation Women's AfroBasket 2021 could offer in Yaounde, Cameroon.
And, we have also learned things that marked the 26th edition of the tournament.
Team that exceeded expectations
For a team that only included one player - Alexandra Green - from the Women's AfroBasket 2019 and had Ahmed Njoya promoted to the head coach position, host Cameroon exceeded expectations with their relatively new squad.
Cameroon's prime goal was to improve from their Second-Place finish accomplished when they hosted the Women's AfroBasket 2015, but things didn't really work out after they came up short to Mali in the Semi-Finals.
However, for a team that finished tenth two years ago and defeated eleven-time African champions Senegal in the Third-Place Game it was like "winning the gold medal" as Cameroon captain Ramses Lonlack put it.
The new Queens of Women's AfroBasket arrived in Yaounde looking to improve from past mistakes and they had ended up making history.
It was in Yaounde, where Nigeria fell to Cameroon in the Semi-Finals six years ago, and it was in the Cameroonian capital where D'Tigress began their dominancy of women's basketball on the continent of Africa.
Nigeria currently hold a Women's AfroBasket 18-0 winning streak, dating back to October 2, 2015 when they kept Angola scoreless (20-0) in the final quarter to finish third in Yaounde. Since, then Nigeria have been challenged on a number of occasions, but they have proven too strong to beat in Africa.
By winning their first three-peat last week, Nigeria became the first team since Senegal to win three consecutive African championships.
The Senegalese won five straight African Championships from 1974 to 1984. Can they Nigeria tie or improve that mark? Time will tell, but it looks feasible for Nigeria while Senegal finished out of the Women's AfroBasket for the first time in decades.
Most exciting player to watch
It wasn't just because Mariam Coulibaly registered two double-doubles and recorded the highest efficiency rate in the entire tournament that she made it the All-Tournament team.
The 1.92m (6ft 2in) center was the heart and soul of Mali. She excelled at both ends of the floor, and was by far one of the most exciting players to watch in the tournament.
At the age of 23, Coulibaly - along with Djeneba N'Diaye - seem to be the future leader of this Mali team.
A lot was expected from Angola, but alarms bells start to ring in Luanda. After winning two straight Women's AfroBasket in 2011 and 2013, Angola's downfall continued in Yaounde.
Since their last African Championship title eight years ago in Maputo, Angola finished fourth (2015), sixth (2017), fifth (2019) and eighth this year, which is no less than their worst-ever result in the history of the Women's AfroBasket.
Before she embarked on a US College basketball career, where she player for UNC Greenboro, Nadine Mohamed made her Women's AfroBasket debut back in 2015 as a 17-year-old. Back then, she had already shown her appetite for scoring, and it came as no surprise that she led all players in scoring in the Yaounde 2021 showdown with 16.8 points per game.
Alongside point guard Soraya Degheidy, Mohamed appears as Egypt's main offensive weapon.
Next up, Nigeria and Mali will try to secure their places in the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2022 when they will be headed to one of the Women's World Cup 2022 Qualifying Tournaments, which will be staged in February.
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