BAMAKO (FIBA Women’s AfroBasket 2017) – Angola edged hosts Mali 68-59 in a tightly contested Group A tie on Saturday night at the Palais des Sports Salamatou Maiga in the Malian capital of Bamako to remain unbeaten at the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket 2017.
Point guard Italee Lucas put up a player-of-the-match performance with a joint game high 21 points to confirm that Angola are in Bamako to reclaim the title they lost two years ago.
In an emotional tribute to her adopted nation, Lucas told FIBA.basketball that, "This is my way of showing appreciation to Angola for everything they have done for me. They have changed my life in ways that they do not really know."
The 28-year old USA-born Lucas, who is making her debut at the continental showpiece, found herself in a difficult situation after picking up two quick fouls in the opening four minutes of the game.
Mali took advantage of her absence to lead 20-11 but Angola mounted a strong comeback in the second quarter to limit the hosts to just two points.
It was a Lucas three-point buzzer beater at Half-Time that handed Angola the lead for the first time in the game 23-22.
Mali head coach Sylvain Lautie orchestrated the exclusion of Lucas from Angola's offense but the latter turned their eyes on Ana Gonçalves who enjoyed a field day behind the three-point arc.
The 24-year old scored five important three-pointers and seven field goals after the Malians failed to defend her pairing with Lucas.
Mali came to the party in the third quarter scoring 22 points as compared to Angola's 23 but the latter ran away with the game in the last quarter and held on to win.
Lucas, whose ball handling skills wowed the crowd despite being in the opponents' camp, was cheered with applause thereafter.
“It was a great game and we played against a great team. We have won two games but those games are over with and we still have six more games to play,” she said.
Meiya Tirera scored 21 points for Mali while Gandega and Coulibaly added 13 and 10 points respectively but this was not enough to guarantee victory.
Angola, who are tied on four points with table leaders Cote d'Ivoire, sit in second place on the table standings.
Meanwhile, Angolan forward Cristina Matiquite attained a knee injury during the game and will be assessed tonight by the medical team.