ALGIERS - Making their FIBA Africa Champions Cup for Women debut last month, GS Petroliers arrived in Maputo with low expectations but returned home with plenty of positives.
Although they did not win the competition, the Algerian champions emerged as the revelation in the Mozambican capital not only because they won four of their seven games, but especially because they pushed the tournament front-runners to the edge.
Former Nigerian international Sofiane Boulahia now serving as the team's head coach, admitted to FIBA.com to being proud of his players, "despite the lack of experience."
“We took many lessons from the tournament, especially on the offensive and defensive aspects of the game," the play caller added.
The Algerians recorded the third highest field-goal percentage behind eventual FIBA ACCW 2016 champions InterClube de Luanda and Primeiro D'Agosto. As well as showing tremendous tenacity, they also came up with the third highest assist rate.
As one of the tournament debutants - alongside Etoile Filante of Togo - they opened their Group B campaign with a 74-57 defeat to Primeiro D'Agosto but grew in confidence throughout.
Boulahia continued: “To be frank, at the beginning of the tournament we weren’t sure about our level of competitiveness, but after playing Primeiro D’Agosto my players realised that the difference between the two sides wasn’t so big, we even beat D’Agosto in second-half.
"In the game against First Bank, we gave away two points in the last seconds, but the key moment for us was the sacrifice and commitment made by the girls. We can’t forget the conditions offered by our president Mr Chouchou and our major sponsor SONATRACH. With all that in place, the hard work always pays off.
“This FIBA ACCW 2016 gave us, even more motivation to work harder and come back next year."
By the time they reached the Quarter-Finals, the Algerians almost caused the biggest upset in the tournament against hosts Ferroviario de Maputo.
The Mozambican champions trailed 34-30 at the break and needed to step up to see off the Algerians 69-57 and reach the Semi-Finals.
With a team built around Algerian internationals Rachida Belaidi and Nesrine Taibi and the DR Congo duo of Thethe Ntumba and Mireille Muganza, GS Petroliers finished fifth after beating Cameroon's FAP 62-46.
“Of course, you must always participate in tournaments like this in order to progress and discover the new trends of modern basketball. This competition allowed me to evaluate myself and thus exchange experience with other coaches."
“My players were very excited because we had a player (Mireille Muganza) in the All-Star team. She was also best center and top rebounder, and our team captain Rachida Belaidi was among the best three-point shooters," Boulahia said.