KIGALI, RWANDA — In the wake of Moroccan side AS Sale’s exit from the Basketball Africa League on Saturday, head coach Liz Mills will leave the team with a view to securing a new national team job on the continent.
Sale, who were knocked out at the same stage in the 2021 edition, lost their quarterfinal to Angolan giants Petro de Luanda, who racked up a 102-89 win at the Kigali Arena in Rwanda.
Australian Mills, who was the Kenya men’s national team coach before taking up the AS Sale role, is the only woman to lead a BAL side, and the only woman to coach a Moroccan men’s sports team.
Mills said her role with Sale is not quite finished yet, though: “My contract is until the end of the Moroccan [domestic] playoffs and then my focus is national teams for the FIBA World Cup qualifiers second round.
“I’m looking to join a national team that is likely to head to the World Cup next year, so that’s my focus over the next 12 months.
“I’m speaking to a couple of federations at the moment. I think there are so many talented teams in Africa… whether it’s as an assistant coach to an exceptional head coach that I can learn from, or taking over a team and becoming the first woman to coach at a [men’s] World Cup. I like breaking barriers, as you know.”
Five teams from the continent will be at next year’s World Cup in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.
Petro were impressive from three-point range, landing 19 out of 36 attempts. In part, this was due to Salé’s lack of defensive intensity.
BAL 2021 scoring champion Terrell Stoglin was kept quiet for most of the game, although he redeemed himself in the fourth quarter to some degree, finishing the match with 19 points.
Mills said a lack of defensive cohesiveness was responsible for Salé’s defeat. Specifically, she hinted that one or more of Salé’s imports were out of step with the rest of the team.
“Ultimately, you can’t play defence with four players. That’s what it comes down to. It doesn’t matter how good you are at scoring. It doesn’t matter how good you are at rebounding offensively,” she said.
“If we had five guys who wanted to play defence, that would be a different story. We’d be sitting on the other side, talking about us winning this game. That comes down to what we as a team are willing to sacrifice. What are we going to put on the line? We talked about defence since [the Sahara Conference in] Senegal. I think, for us, that’s where we lost the game.
“We have a slightly different team that we use in Morocco… Generally, we only play with two imports. There is a certain level of chemistry that Moroccans have. Obviously, it’s a different standard in Morocco.
“[Defensive incoherence] is something that we’ll focus on heading into [domesic] playoffs and we can address those issues, definitely, in the next couple of weeks.”
Petro will face Cameroon’s Forces Armées et Police (FAP) in the semi-finals on 25 May after the latter stunned host team Rwanda Energy Group (REG) 66-63 in the late Saturday tip-off.
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