Silverbacks during the playing of the national anthem before the game against Cape Verde Credit: FIBA

Uganda edged close to qualifying for the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 following a 101-98 win over Cape Verde on Sunday at Al Ittihad Stadium in Alexandria, Egypt.

The Silverbacks recovered from 4 points down (82-86) in the final five minutes of the game to go for the win that puts them in a position to have a foot in Kigali, Rwanda for the final tournament next year.

The opening quarter of what looked like an offensive exhibition game was balanced with neither side taking a big lead despite several lead changes but Uganda was ahead by a point (26-25) at the end of the ten minutes.

Cape Verde scored five unanswered points to start the second quarter but as the period progressed, the Silverbacks, led by power forward Ishmail Wainright, took control of the game assuming a double-digit lead. It was, however, cut down to 9 points (52-43) heading into the halftime break.

Silverbacks bench celebrates one of Wainright’s 3-pointer Credit: FIBA

In the third quarter, Cape Verde rallied back through Jeffrey Xavier and Joel Almeida who shot the ball well from distance. The Islanders tied the game at 64 with just over four minutes to play and took a 2-point (76-74) lead into the last quarter.

Cape Verde had the momentum to start the fourth quarter and Jimmy Enabu’s bad pass gifted Kenneti Mendes a dunk that was followed by Joel Almeida’s trey and the lead was 81-74.

Turning point

With over six minutes to play and Uganda tailing by 8 points (78-86), Silverback went on a quick 6-0 run forcing Cape Verde to call for a time out. On return, Robinson Opong connected from 3-point range to put Uganda up 87-86 but Xavier cancelled it on the next possession to restore Cape Verde’s lead.

Robinson Opong rises for a jumper Credit: FIBA

Tony Drileba leaned in to tied the game with a jumper and Wainright hit a tough shot at the top of the mountain for the lead with 2:18 to play. Jimmy Enabu followed it with a lay-up in the open court after stealing the ball fro Xavier.

Cape Verde called for time and on return Ivan Almeida it a jumper but on the other end, Enabu pulled up near the baseline off a left-hand dribble to restore Uganda’s 5-point lead with 1:36 to play.

Kenneti Mendes charged into Enabu for an offensive foul and with the possession, Wainright hit a jumper to extend Uganda’s lead to 7 points (98-91) with 1:11 to play. While Xavier missed a 3-pointer, at the other Opong drove to the hole and kicked out to John Deng Geu (17 points) in the corner who put the game out of reach for Cape Verde.

Wainright did a little bit of everything on the night for the Silverbacks as he poured in 36 points, pulled down 13 rebounds and dished out 7 assists. Enabu contributed 17 points and handed out 5 assists while Opong came in handy with 16 points.

Xavier led Cape Verde’s losing effort with 24 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists. Joel Almeida matched team-high 24 points while Mendes scored 15. Ivan Almeida contributed 16 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists.

With two victories in Alexandria, Uganda have one foot in AfroBasket 2021 that will be staged in Kigali, Rwanda.

Franklin Kaweru is the Editor in Chief of Kawowo Sports. He is an ardent basketball enthusiast.

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