Tunisia's retiring star Radhouane Slimane lifts the trophy with teammates in the background Credit: FIBA

Tunisia are FIBA AfroBasket Champions again! The Eagles defeated Cote d’Ivoire 78-75 on Sunday at Kigali Arena, Rwanda to win the 2021 edition.

It’s the Tunisians’ second successive AfroBasket title having claimed the trophy in 2017 in front of their home fans and their third overall following the 2011 success in Madagascar.

The North Africans became the first team to win back-to-back AfroBasket titles since Angola followed the 2007 success with another continent title in 2009.

Tunisia players and officials celebrate after the final buzzer Credit: FIBA

The backcourt pair of Omar Abada and Michael Roll coupled with 7’1″ center Salah Mejri powered Tunisia to victory. The trio contributed 10, 18, and 22 points respectively.

Mejri hit some big shots including two huge 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that kept Cote d’Ivoire far behind before some late carnage from Souleyman Diabate who was 4-of-5 from behind the arc to match a game-high 22 points created a tense finish to the game.

Cote d’Ivoire trailed by 13 points at the long break but started the third quarter with a 10-2 run to force Tunisia into a time-out. On return, Dirk Bauermann’s charges restored their double-digit lead but Mejri picked his fourth foul and was pulled out of the game. Mokhtar Ghyaza however was valuable with the big man on the bench.

Cote d’Ivoire’s players look on during the awards ceremony in disappointment Credit: FIBA

Diabate’s late fourth-quarter show brought the game to within 3 points (78-75). The Ivorians were gifted possession from a turnover with 10 seconds on the clock. Natxo Lezcano called for time to draw up a play that would tie or potentially win the game (with a four-point play) but the hot mam Diabate was doubled up, leaving Matt Costello who struggled in the game the available option to go to and the big man turned over to send Tunisians into celebration.

Individual and Team Awards

Tunisia forward Ben Romdhane was named the tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP), Cape Verde’s 7’3″ center Walter Tavares was the best rebounder, Gorgui Dieng of Senegal was the top scorer, former AfroBasket MVP Carlos Morais won the Best-Three-Pointer award while Rwanda took the Fairplay Award.

All Star 5: Walter Tavares, Ben Romdhane, Omar Abada, Matt Costello and Gorgui Dieng Credit: FIBA

Omar Abada (Tunisia), Ben Romdhane (Tunisia), Matt Costello (Cote d’Ivoire), Gorgi Dieng (Senegal) and Walter Tavares (Cape Verde) were the AllStar Five

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

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