RWANDA senior men’s national basketball team had a performance to forget fast after registering a disappointing winless campaign during the second round – fourth window – games of the 2019 FIBA World Cup African Qualifiers, which concluded Sunday in Lagos, Nigeria.
On the other hand, hosts Nigeria and Tunisia became the first African teams to qualify for inaugural 32-team edition of FIBA’s flagship competition in China.
Rwanda were arguably the surprise team of the third window in July after they defeated both Uganda and Mali to progress to the second round as Group B first runners-up, behind leaders Nigeria. However, Vladmir Bosnjak’s side failed to make a mark this time as they lost all their three games.
Rwanda kicked off their campaign on Friday against Senegal in a tightly contested tie, narrowly losing 94-89 to the West Africans, thanks to Gorgui Dieng’s game high 28 points.
Kenny Gasana was Rwanda’s top scorer in this particular game with 19 points.
In their second game, played on Saturday, against Ivory Coast, Rwanda lost with a difference of 18 points. Ivory Coast led by Vafessa Moise Fofana defeated a visibly dispirited Rwandan side 71-53. Fofana inspired the Ivorians with a game high 16 points while Rwanda’s Dieudonne Ndayisaba Ndizeye scored 13 points.
While they hoped to end the losing streak in their final group game, Rwanda again took in another defeat, this time failing to overcome the Central African Republic – in a 68-61 loss.
Despite losing the first quarter 16-13, Rwanda gained momentum to take the second quarters 14-11 and 17-14. However, they heavily lost the final quarter 27-17 to suffer a third consecutive loss as the chances for a historic first ticket to World Cup narrowed further.
Forward Jean Paul Adonis Rwabigwi was Rwanda’s best on the night with 16 points, two points less than Central Africa’s Destin Damachoua who made 18 points to guide his side to victory.
Following the conclusion the penultimate window, unbeaten Nigeria tops Group F 18 points followed by Senegal in second place with 16 points.
Central African Republic and Ivory Coast are third and fourth, respectively, with 13 points each while Rwanda are fifth with 12 points, sharing the same point tally with Mali at the bottom.
Meanwhile, Nigeria and Tunisia have already secured their tickets for the World Cup following a very triumphant campaign with one qualifiers window to go.
Both sides booked tickets to the China 2019 by stretching their unbeaten runs to 9 games apiece.
It was Nigeria's victory in Lagos that put both teams over the top, as it ensured that the D’Tigers cannot drop below second place in Group F's standings and also guaranteed that Tunisia's win tally, at worst, earns them qualification as the best third-place team in Group E.
There are three more tickets to play for in the African Qualifiers, with the continent delegating a total of five national teams to the first ever 32-team edition of FIBA's flagship competition.
The ultimate qualifiers, fifth window, are scheduled for November 26 – December 4.
The host nation is yet to be determined.