Denmark-based shooting guard Tayler Durang Okari put up a man-of-the-match performance as Kenya hit rivals Uganda 70-62 in the Fiba Zone V African Games qualifiers at the Lugogo Indoor Arena on Wednesday.
The 6'5'' Kenyan star, who in April helped his Danish side to win the league title, poured in 22 points and pulled down 17 rebounds in Kenya's rare win over the Ugandans at home, increasing the team's chances of booking their ticket to the African Games in over two decades.
Also impressive was the seven footer Bush Wamukota, son of Webuye West MP Dan Wanyama, who is a student in the US, who apart from dominating Uganda's Silver Bucks inside the paint also did well to tame Uganda's former NBA star Brandon Davies who was a menace whenever he had possession. Kenya Morans, as the men's basketball team is known, took the game to the Ugandans from tip off as Okari nailed three unanswered shots beyond the arc while Wamukota and Desmond Owili terrorised the Ugandans inside the paint for a 22-17 first quarter lead, a lead they increased to 40-31 at the break.
Uganda came alive in the third quarter with Davies, captain Jimmy Enabu, and US-based Deng John Geo combining well for easy points whose climax was Davies rim roasting dunk that brought the hosts to within three points with scores at 45-42 for Kenya.
Eric Mutoro and Griffin Ligare, who had a quiet first half, then took charge when it mattered with their trade mark three point shots as Kenya raced to a comfortable win.
Wamukota (18) and Mutoro (13) points were other top scorers for Kenya while Davies and Robinson Opong led Uganda with 17 and 12 points respectively.
Coach Cliff Owuor was happy but cautious saying beating Egypt in the second match set for Thursday night would guarantee Kenya the sole ticket to the African Games.
" I had done my scouting and knew what exactly we needed to do as a team in this match. It therefore really helped because they didn't know much about our team after mercilessly beating us at home in friendly matches last December," Owuor said.
In other matches played at the same venue on Wednesday, Egypt men were made go sweat before defeating Rwanda 68-59 while Uganda women survived a scare from Rwanda before winning 62-53.
Friday is a rest day before action resumes on Saturday with the final preliminary round matches for women to determine the pairing for the semi-finals set for Sunday where the first team in the group will take on the fourth placed team while the second team will square it out with the third team in semi-final matches.
The finals for women are set for Monday while the Men's program which is being played on round robin format ends on Sunday.