Uganda’s national women’s basketball team, the Gazelles, showcased their resilience and talent at the 2023 FIBA Women’s AfroBasket, leaving a lasting impression on fans and opponents alike. Despite facing formidable challenges, the Gazelles delivered standout performances, leaving an indelible mark on the tournament.
In their opening game against Mali, the Gazelles displayed impressive defensive prowess, effectively switching through 1-3-1 and 2-3 zones. This disciplined approach, coupled with Mali’s poor outside shooting, kept the contest evenly matched for large parts of the game. However, turnovers and some easy points for Mali proved costly, and the Gazelles suffered a narrow defeat, with Janon Otto leading the charge with 19 points.
In a stunning upset against Senegal, the youngest player on the team, Lydia Babirye, displayed nerves of steel, scoring crucial points to secure a memorable 85-83 victory. Jane Asinde’s efficient 20-point performance and Jannon Otto’s team-high 21 points were crucial in this thrilling encounter.
The Gazelles’ historic achievement came in their clash with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where they secured a convincing 78-62 win, advancing to the knockout round for the first time in the tournament’s history. Janon Otto’s smooth midrange game and Jane Asinde’s all-around performance were instrumental in this milestone victory.
Although the Gazelles fell short in a hard-fought quarterfinal match against Rwanda, the team fought valiantly, with Otto’s tournament-high 31 points earning admiration. Despite the loss, the Gazelles showcased their potential, leaving a lasting impression on the tournament.
In the subsequent game against Mozambique, the Gazelles struggled, and despite the defeat, the team’s resilience and spirited performances throughout the tournament demonstrated their growth and potential as a competitive force in African basketball.
In their final game of the tournament, the Gazelles faced Guinea in a decisive placement match. Eager to end the tournament on a high note, the team delivered a dominant performance, securing an 85-44 victory and finishing in a remarkable seventh place.
Janon Otto, who consistently shone throughout the tournament, once again led the charge with 21 points, showcasing her scoring prowess and cementing her position as a top scorer in the competition. Jane Asinde, who had previously displayed her talent and versatility, returned with an impressive 15 points and 5 rebounds in just 20 minutes on the court.
Melissa Akullu, Hope Akello, and Ritah Imanishimwe, who stepped up and made a strong impact, each contributed 9 points to support the team’s scoring effort. As the Gazelles closed out the tournament with this convincing victory, they expressed immense pride in their accomplishments and their growth as a team.
Reflecting on the tournament, head coach Alberto Antuna expressed his satisfaction with the Gazelles’ performance, noting that their seventh-place finish was a massive achievement for the team. The tournament provided a significant opportunity for the players to represent Uganda and display their skills on the continental stage.
The Gazelles’ progress in the 2023 FIBA Women’s AfroBasket has left a lasting legacy for Ugandan women’s basketball. The team’s collective efforts, young talents’ emergence, and coach Antuna’s guidance have laid a strong foundation for the future. With this exceptional performance, the Gazelles have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in African basketball and have undoubtedly inspired a new generation of players in Uganda.