AS the analysis of Zimbabwe’s fall to South Africa in the AfroBasket qualifiers last week continues, no one seems capable of explaining how the men’s basketball team blew a 20-point lead to allow the hosts to come from behind and snatch the first game 74-67.By Tinashe Kusema
Although coach Emmanuel Mukandi’s men went on to win the second match 70-68 the damage they suffered in the first game came back to haunt Zimbabwe as the home side qualified by virtue of scoring more points. The national team coach admits that his team failed to manage the game.
“We developed a 20-point lead in the first three quarters but unfortunately we didn’t manage to maintain it till the end. In the first game the SA team certainly used home court advantage as Tsakani Ngobeni plays in the Basketball National League and is used to shooting his 3 pointers on those hoops,” said Mukandi.
Ngobeni shot four of his five three-pointers, during South Africa’s charge towards reducing the deficit and winning the game.
“Had we held on to that lead or stopped those shots we would have definitely come home with a healthier result Unfortunately, nerves crept in and the team failed to handle the intensity of the game and the home crowd,” added the Zimbabwe coach, who also blamed inadequate preparations for the defeat. “We could have played more friendlies which in turn would have helped with exposure and the required intensity that was lacking in the team in South Africa.
“The postponement and uncertainties around the dates, meant we could only play local teams for warm ups, and from a coaching point of view this helped South Africa more than it did us.”
However, some analysts argue that failure to defend a 20-point lead cannot be blamed on poor preparations but on poor tactics.
“South Africa didn’t blow us out of the court so it’s not about preparations, we lost this one on the bench,” said one club coach who requested anonymity.
On the other hand Mukandi remains eager to stay on after the expiry of his contract at the end of the year.
“I am the substantive coach and would love to retain it on a more permanent basis. A five-year spell would be ideal, during which we could unveil a long program, which with technical support from the union and ministry could help ensure growth and continuity in sport,” he said.
Basketball Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Joe Mujuru said a decision on the national team coach would ideally only be made after this year’s union elections.
“As you might be aware, we have elections at the end of this year, meaning that the decision is not entirely ours,” said Mujuru. “We gave all our coaches one-year contracts, which expire in December when a new national board comes into office. It will be their prerogative to review and appoint coaches.”