SHEFFIELD (Julio Chitunda's African Message) - The First Round of Groups A and C of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers is now done and dusted, and it left some memorable moments.
TUNISIA'S WINNING STREAK CONTINUES
Two months ago Tunisia convincingly defeated all their six opponents to win their second FIBA AfroBasket title.
However, Palma's team reminded everyone why they are real contenders to secure one of the five tickets for African nations for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019.
Trailing by one with 13 seconds remaining, Palma called a timeout. In the aftermath, inbounder Omar Abada assisted Mokhtar Ghyaza for the game-winning easy lay-up.
In the process, Tunisia closed the First Round of Group A undefeated in three games while extending their overall winning streak - under Palma - to 13, dating back to January 2017.
Cameroon finished second with a 2-1 record and were followed by Chad (2-1) and Guinea (0-3).
ANGOLA'S HOME CROWD MADE A DIFFERENCE
Angola fans ended up being the biggest winners of the First Round of Group C of the African Qualifiers.
Angola had last played a FIBA competition game on home soil back in 2007 when they beat Cameroon in the final to win their ninth continental title.
Even Angola's newly appointed head coach Will Voigt, who had described his team as the underdogs ahead of the competition, later paid tribute to Angolan supporters: "We knew it was going to be a tough tournament but with the support of the home crowd, we managed to win all the three games and that's important for us."
As South Africa's replacement, Chad had just two weeks prior to the competition.
And although they had last played at FIBA AfroBasket 2011 - the highest level of African basketball -, took many by surprise.
Led by Michael Koibe and Placide Nakidjim, Chad not only forced Cameroon to step up on Day 1, but they also put themselves in a position to compete for a place in the 12-team Second Round thanks to an 85-51 win over Guinea. And as a result, they closed the First Round of Group A with a 1-2 mark.
NO STAR PLAYERS FOR EGYPT, NO PROBLEM
Egypt arrived in the Angolan capital missing Assem Marei and Ehad Amin - two of their most talented players in recent years -, but Amr Aboulkheir's team effort spoke volumes.
Egypt looked composed, confident, and, more importantly, they competed hard from start to finish.
In his return to the team - after missing the latest African Championship - Omar Oraby, along with shooting guard Ibrahim Elgammal, were the heart and soul of the North Africans.
Should they keep the core of the team for the Second Round, Egypt should be added to the list of Africa heavyweights to contest for places in China 2019.
Egypt finished the First Round of Group C in second place with a 2-1 mark, Morocco came third with a 1-2 record, while the Democratic Republic of Congo lost all their three games.
EVERYBODY PLAYED TO WIN
No matter how ranked teams currently are, everybody played to win, and this moment between Oraby and Angola's Yanick Moreira says it all.
The First Round of Groups B and D of the African Qualifiers begin in February 2018.
By Julio Chitunda for FIBA.com