COTONOU (FIBA AfroBasket 2017) - Cotonou's Hall des Arts, the venue of the first leg FIBA AfroBasket 2017 Qualifier Group C, was practically lit up on Thursday night following host Republic of Benin's thrilling 69-61 victory over Burkina Faso.
The game started on a fast pace with the host going all out to dictate the flow of the game as they led 17-6 in the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Burkinabes led by their inspirational captain Mamadou Savadogo came back powerfully in the game to end scores at 20-19.
It was the same momentum they carried into the third quarter using their size advantage in the paint to earn freethrows to increase their points and eventually won the quarter 15-17 despite an ankle twist of Yaya Diarra who could not continue.
However, in the final quarter of the game, the host seemed to have lost a grip on the game as they turned over the ball on many occasions with team captain Romaric Quenum being the biggest culprit.
As much as Burkina Faso piled the pressure to end it on another winning note at 15-17, it was not enough as the host fought back to keep the score low banking on the wide margin they led the first quarter with.
Burkina Faso's captain Savadogo who plies his trade in the Benin league with ASPAC told Fiba.com that his country is not shaken by the defeat as they still stand a good chance to pick the sole ticket from group C.
"All we need do is for us to win against Cote d'Ivoire and finish up Benin in Abidjan. Our chances are still very bright."
For Arnold Yacoubou who led the floor for the host with 17 points, 9 rebounds the victory means the world to him.
"I am glad we won this first game. It takes a lot of pressure from us and we hope that when we meet Cote d’Ivoire, we’ll give a better account of ourselves."
His efforts were complimented by teammate Enock Gandjeto who scored 10 points while Zerbo Zerbo led the floor for Burkina Faso with 17 points, 3 rebounds.
In the second game of this first leg qualifier, Burkina Faso will take on FIBA AfroBasket 2013 hosts Cote d'Ivoire.