The Sasol South Africa squad’s bid for the 2010 World Cup suffered a blow after a 66-62 defeat at the hands of Morocco in their final round robin game in the IWBF World Cup Africa Qualifiers at Mandeville Indoor Stadium Thursday.
Goals win games and when 59 chances go awry, there is only one course of action and that is back to the drawing board to re-plan for what will be an epic battle between the two sides in Friday’s semi-final. With their win-loss card standing at 3-2 and the chance at a psychological advantage blown, the third placed local favourites must win if they hope to battle Algeria for the trip to Birmingham in the final round on Saturday.
ÔÇ£It was a tough loss for us, but we need to come back from this,ÔÇØ said national coach Viv Sierra. ÔÇ£I honestly thought we would win this game and I still think both teams played a great game and both teams deserved to win on the day. Our shooting let us down and today was Morocco’s day; tomorrow is going to have to be ours.ÔÇØ
For the first quarter, the battle between the two teams was a closely contested affair that played out to a 17-15 advantage to Morocco. South Africa’s shortfall slid to a nine point deficit at 39-30 at half-time and little changed in the third quarter; it seemed South Africa would slide to defeat with barely a whimper when the buzzer sounded at 56-46.
But a stirring defensive lockdown led by Richard Nortje turned the tables in the final quarter and the home side closed the gap to just four points with less than two minutes to play. Nortje was a key figure in the comeback, playing most of the second half at the point, with Marius Papenfus and Vuyolu Mbande slipping into the shooting guard role.
Nortje’s 32 points and stand-out defensive displays from guards Marcus Retief and Justin Govender also helped stem the bleeding, but even after Nortje dunked two free throws to carve the deficit to just two, the relentless Oulini Mohammed scored on the buzzer to seal a four-point win.
“We have a good unit out there, but there is still room for improvement,” commented battle-weary skipper Papenfus. “We upped the defence, got some good turnovers and Richard made some big shots for us, but now it’s about the rest of us on the team, stepping it up. There is a place in the final and the guys won’t need any more motivation than that; now it’s just a case of regrouping and coming out firing on all cylinders.ÔÇØ
As discouraging as the South African loss was, Morocco were far from flawless. They, too, missed at least 50 shots at goal and for large stretches their defence was poor, while South Africa limited their top scorers in the tournament, Megrini Kamel and Mohamed, to just 14 and 12 goals respectively. And the silver lining is that, although Morocco led 20-15 in offensive rebounds, South Africa held them to a 34-all draw in defensive rebounds and beat them 16-14 in turnovers.
In the remaining games, Algeria maintained their unbeaten streak with another convincing display to beat Angola 76-30 while Zimbabwe surprised Kenya to win their first game in the tournament 64-50.
Algeria should have no trouble advancing in their second clash against Angola at 5pm, where after South Africa will face Morocco in a do-or-die game for a place in the final at 7pm.
Fifth round results:
Morocco 66 South Africa 62
Zimbabwe 67 Kenya 50
Algeria 76 Angola 30