By Joe Apu
Cote d’ Ivoire in Cotonou, Benin Republic at the weekend took a giant leap closer to the AfroBasket 2017 finals qualification ticket, courtesy of a 2-0 win in the first leg of the FIBA Africa Zone 3 qualifiers
The Ivoriens had rolled over Burkina Faso (71-48) and Benin Republic (69-55) at the Hall des Arts arena to put them in pole position for the place in the final round billed for Congo Brazaville in August.
To earn the lead, which put the Ivoiren side 2-0 ahead of Benin Republic (1-1) and Burkina Faso (0-2) they dominated the Benin side who pulled the strings in the first quarter to end it at 15-12 in favour of the home side but the tide changed in the three quarters that followed with scores reading 08-19, 26-26 and 08-12 respectively.
The fast pace of the Ivoirens quickly tired out the Benin side that introduced two of their foreign based players – Kaneho Spaho (Tunisia) and Eyitayo Kafil (Canada) who tried to boost their team efforts but could not.
On the night, it was Kamate Amara who had a field day scoring 15 points to lead the floor for the Ivoriens and was complimented by Karaboue Amboudou as well as Kakoun Asshe with 12 points each.
On the Benin side, it was shooting guard Akpatchi Romaric with 16 points to lead his side and followed by Romaric Quenum who pulled 11 points. Despite the win by Cote d’ Ivoire, Benin Republic’s playmaker, Akpatchi Romaric expressed hope that his country was keeping everything open. “As a player, I feel sad that we lost our second game but with our win against Burkina Faso give us the assurance that we can still turn the table when we get into the second leg.”