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May 26, 2023


Stade Malien couldn’t have finished their BAL debut season any better after beating Petro de Luanda 73-65 in the Third-Place Game on Friday night.

Winners of the 2023 Sahara Conference, Stade Malien arrived in Kigali looking to compete and go as far as possible.

But a 78-73 loss to Al Ahly in the Semi-Finals on Wednesday halted their title aspirations.

Beating Petro de Luanda became their primary goal to celebrate a season that began during the BAL Qualifiers last November in Niger and saw them qualify for their first BAL after a successful Elite 16 Round Abidjan in December.

“On the paper the so-called big teams look really good, but the reality is on the floor,” Stade Malien captain Makan Keita.

Makan Keita

After trailing 54-50 at the end of the third quarter, Stade Malien never backed down.

And when Keita hit a three-pointer – his second of the game – that put Stade Malien in front 60-58 with five minutes left, the Malian champions grew in confidence and Petro struggled to cope their aggression.

“I couldn’t waste that chance. I was wide open... I felt confident to take that shot, and it went in. It was all about confidence,” said Keita who finished with 8 points and 5 assists.

“The fourth quarter was the key moment for us. We played for our lives. We wanted to take a medal home, and things worked out for us,” he added.

Stade Malien became the first from the Road to BAL Qualifying Round to finish third in the BAL Finals

Aliou Diarra recorded his eighth straight double-double of 25 points and 12 rebounds to help Stade Malien finish their BAL season with an overall 5-3 mark.

He was the only Malien player to score in double digits.

“It was down to a lot of work.. a lot of motivation. Players like John [Wilkins] and the other import players really lifted our game. We are a young team, and those guys gave us some valuable advice,” Keita observed.

Petro de Luanda guard Carlos Morais bounced-back from a six-point performance in the Semi-Finals to finish with 15 points, and become the only Petro player to score in double digits.

Makan Keita

“Mentally, we were still affected by the Semi-Final loss against AS Douanes. This shouldn't be an excuse. Credit to Stade Malien,” noted Aboubacar Gakou who contributed six points in the losing cause.

Wilkins attributed the Third-Place award to his teammates’ tenacity.

“It was a great team for us,” he said.

“After the loss against Al Ahly we had to show our real face. Today we played without any pressure.”

Wilkins continued: “These guys worked really, really hard throughout the season to accomplish this Third-Place. This a win for the local players. We joined the team to help, but, in the end, it was a win for the local players and Mali as a country. They really deserved this reward.”