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Afrobasket: The islanders of Cape Verde are aiming for the maiden finale

Cape Verde want to make history by reaching their first Afrobasket final against defending champions Tunisia in the semi-finals on Saturday in Rwanda.

The island nation has only reached the bottom four once, losing to eventual champions Angola in 2007 before beating Egypt and finishing third in the African men’s basketball championships.

Cape Verde returned to the semi-finals on Thursday after beating Uganda and now have another North African team in their sights, with Tunisia beating South Sudan on Thursday.

“We’re in the semi-finals here and I don’t think we’re done,” said Jeffrey Nunes Xavier, 35.

“We have to understand that – we want more. This is just the beginning for us. We have the best team Cape Verde has ever had.”

Cape Verde beat Tunisia when the teams last met at the Afrobasket in 2009, but this year’s edition is a different matter, unbeaten in Kigali and confident that they can deliver again.

Center Salah Merji says they only have to play their game to get back to the finals.

“Every time we are patient, we move the ball, we play good basketball and that is our identity,” the Tunisian told BBC Sport Africa. “So we’ll be smart to play a more European style.”

Either two-time winners await the winners of the first semi-final Ivory Coast or five-time champion Senegal.

Despite the more impressive trophy record of the Senegalese, they are behind the Ivory in the matches between teams 4-3 – with the Elephants, who won their last Afrobasket duel in 2013.

“I’m very grateful to be back in a semi-final of Afrobasket, so it will be fine,” said Ivorian coach Ignacio Lezcano Moya, who lost both of the semi-finals he played in the finals (2011 and 2013).

Senegal’s Henry Pierria, meanwhile, is confident about his side’s chances of reaching the first final in 16 years as they aim for their first title since 1997.

“We’ll be ready, just play Senegalese basketball and I think we’ll be ahead,” he said. “We have to make sure that we implement our fixtures for our next game.”

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