How Antananarivo produced Africa's best ever FIBA 3x3 World Tour performance
SHANGHAI (China) - An epic run from Antananarivo (MAD) at the first-ever Shanghai Masters on October 14-15 has put Africa on the FIBA 3x3 World Tour map.
The team from Madagascar were unfancied as the 11th seeds. But real ones knew that Antananarivo were a dark horse contender after they made the semis at the Wuxi Challenger, where they beat Sansar MMC Energy (MGL) and Raudondvaris Hoptrans (LTU).
Antananarivo proved they could handle the big stage in their World Tour debut, but they did have nerves initially after losing to powerful Beijing (CHN) 21-17 in a tough opening game.
They faced another Chinese power in Futian (CHN) next with most expecting Antananarivo to be eliminated.
But they weren't merely content with making up the numbers as Antananarivo stunned Futian with a thrilling 21-18 victory thanks largely to star Elly Randriamampionona pouring in a game-high 11 points.
Next up in the quarters was the toughest of tests against number one seeds Vienna (AUT), who were fresh off their Masters triumph in Amsterdam.
It seemed like Antananarivo were intimidated and set for humiliation after Vienna jumped out to a 7-0 lead. But they regrouped as Randriamampionona started heating up to inch his team closer.
He was supported by Livio Ratianarivo as the teams went toe-to-toe in an instant classic.
With the scores tied at 20, Randriamampionona took it upon himself to be the hero as he drove to the rim and finished a tough layup to trigger scenes of celebration for the underdogs.
Their fairy-tale run finally ended when Antananarivo ran out of gas against eventual champs Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy (MGL) in the semis.
But Antananarivo has caught the attention of the 3x3 world, especially Randriamampionona who has dominated in Africa for years and the 26-year-old is regarded as the continent's best player.
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He finished with 31 points from 4 games and is a superstar for Antananarivo to build around as they look for sustained success on the pro circuit.
Their giant-killing performance is set to have a huge impact on Africa - an emerging 3x3 continent. Antananarivo's semi-final effort was the best-ever World Tour finish by an African nation.
You feel this is just the beginning for Antananarivo as Africa starts to make an impact on the World Tour.