After four consecutive defeats in the Sahara Conference of the 2023 Basketball Africa League, Kwara Falcons will not be making it to the playoffs. It became official when the Nigerian champions lost to AS Douanes 75-68 on Saturday.
As the only team yet to register a win in the competition, the Falcons were condemned to win their last two games to get in the race for a playoff spot.
It got more difficult for the Ilorin based outfit when the home team, AS Douanes recorded their first win in the tournament 24 hours earlier.
Besides going against the players on court, Falcons had to contend with the raucous crowd at the 15,000 capacity Dakar Arena who were more motivated after their win over Rwanda Energy Group the previous day.
Despite effort put forward by the Nigerian champions, they trailed by 35-41 at the break.
Kwara Falcons head coach Baba Jibril said his team started well against Douanes who had a lot of support from the home crowd.
“They (Douanes) came out hot because they are playing at home and they came out strong against us but we responded in the first and second quarter.”
The Falcons had a disappointing third quarter just like they’ve had in previous games, outscored 12-18 with a 12 point deficit going to the fourth.
”We had a little slack in the third quarter. We are still learning and we expected it from the home crowd because it was a must win for them to help them qualify,” said Jibril.
Falcons took advantage of eight bad passes made by Douanes in the fourth but Douanes’ Mouhamadou Daigne came out big with consecutive blocks late in the fourth to deny them in the paint.
Victor Ezeh, Michael Oriakhi and Modou Fall Thiam all combined for 33 points. Ezeh also shot three of his nine 3-pointers and went 75% from the free throw line.
”Its a good experience for me as a player to come to the BAL. We are down after 4 games its a wake up call to step up our game,” Oriakhi explained.
Jeremiah Mordi added 8 points took care of the boards 7 times with 4 assists and 2 steals.
With 29 seconds remaining, Ezeh shot 5 points including a 3 pointer to cut the deficit to 5.
Falcons outscored Douanes 21-16, dropped two 3s and went 5/5 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter but two late turn overs by the Nigerians handed the victory to the Senegalese champions..
The Falcons hit 10/27 from the deep against 8/22 made by Douanes, outrebounded 41-39 and shot 25points from 21 turn overs committed by them in the entire game.
Just like in previous games, Falcons’ late rally was not enough as they left it too late and have now been eliminated from the 2023 BAL.
Three players finished on double figures for AS Douanes who improved to a 2-2 record on the standings with the win.
Jean Jacques Boissy dropped a game high 22 points, Marcus Chris Crawford added 17 while Bryan Osei contributed 10.
Boissy added 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks. The Senegalese made 5-of 9 from behind the arc and went 100% (5-5) from the line.
Crawford had 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 blocks in 40 minutes on the floor.
While Kwara Falcons will play Abidjan Basket Club Fighters in their next game on Monday, AS Douanes will face the reigning champions US Monastir on Tuesday.
“We have our own pride to protect so we have to come out we might be out of the tournament but we still have our pride so we have to come out to play,” Jibril said.
Earlier in the day, Stade Malien recorded an 84-64 win over REG to end the Rwandan champions’ three-game winning streak.
Aliou Diarra shot 9-12 to finish with 20 points, had 16 rebounds for a double-double with 2 assists and 2 blocks.
Souleyman Bertha had 23 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, steals and 1 block including 2 three pointers.
Kelvin Amayo shot 14 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals for the Malian side who improved to a 2-2 and are back in the race for a playoff spot.
Stade Malien will face ABC Fighters in the last game on Tuesday while REG will hope to bounce back when they face US Monastir on Monday.