Determined Kenya Moran’s marked their return to the FIBA Afro Basket Championship after 28 years’ absence with 88-70 loss to five –time champions Ivory Coast, in their Group C opener at the Kigali Arena – Rwanda.
Morans had an impressive start in the Wednesday night clash, matching the West Africans by score going to the break but would falter from the start of the third quarter.
Ivory Coast edged Morans 26-24 in the first quarter, who would however command proceedings of the second 21-15, ensuring a 39-39 tie going into the break. Having started poorly to give Ivory Coast a 10-point lead just after the restart in the third quarter, Morans struggled to catch up losing 21-15 and 28-16 in the fourth.
Tylor Ongwae stood out for the Liz Mills-coached side hitting 25 points, the Danish based man emerging the best scorer two points above Matt Costello of Ivory Coast.
Kenya will face Nigeria in their second match on Thursday, who beat other group opponents Mali 81-73 in an earlier match.
A win against powerhouse Nigeria would revive Kenya’s hopes of cruising past the group stage, going to the last match on Friday against Mali.