BEIRA (FIBA U16 Women's Africa Championship 2017) - Record champions Mali tipped off their title defense in style with a 66-33 victory over Egypt in the continental Championship opener in Beira, Mozambique on Saturday.
In the third quarter, the west africans dominated the boards on both offense and defense to run away with the game as they limited Egypt to just seven points and led 42-27.
Spain-based Sika Kone sunk a game high 29 points and picked 11 rebounds while teammates Aissetou Coulibaly and Fanta Kone added 17 and 13 points apiece as Mali completed the job on game day one.
Speaking to FIBA.basketball, Mali assistant coach Aboubakar Diallo said, "this was our first game so it was very important for us to win. We respect all our opponents but we have a job to do."
"There are five teams at this tournament but our first objective is to qualify for the FIBA U17 Women's World Cup and then our second is to win the trophy."
Egypt's Habiba Elgiwazy, who plies her trade for giants Al Ahly, was the only player on her team to score in double figures with 12 points and picked 5 rebounds.
Egypt head coach Hamed Mohamed admitted that his players were timid after Mali's lead went into double figures and it became difficult thereafter.
"Mali is a very strong team. We were very poor today and our confidence went down when their lead extended to double figures. We did not box out and they picked most of the rebounds."
"However, I hope that in the next game we shall be better. We want to go to the Semi-Finals and eventually in the Final. Another final with Mali. We have to learn how to win a game," Hamed explained
"Every game is a final now as we target a spot for next year's FIBA U17 Women's Basketball World Cup."
In the second game of the day, hosts Mozambique registered an important win over debutants Zimbabwe 48-39 to stay on course to qualifying for the Semi-Finals.
Noemia Massingue top scored with 20 points, picked 3 rebounds and made 3 assists to inspire Lucilia Caetano's side to victory in the southern African derby.
Maria Mutengo and Tanaka Zwinaka were on the score sheet for Zimbabwe with 12 and 9 points in that order but their efforts were not enough to help their side win against Mozambique who enjoyed the support of the home fans.
Only five teams are competing at this year's edition with the top two qualifying for the FIBA U17 Women's Basketball World Cup set to be hosted in Minsk, Belarus.