Abdelgawad, Elgedawy guide Egypt to AfroBasket finals

WKU guard Meral Abdelgawad (30) celebrates a three point shot in the first quarter during the Lady Toppers’ game against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, January 26 at Diddle Arena. CHRIS KOHLEY/HERALD

Jesse Spencer

Meral Abdelgawad and Raneem Elgedawy represented the WKU women’s basketball team in a big way recently, helping the Egyptian national team to a perfect 5-0 record in the Zone 5 qualifying tournament and an automatic spot in the 2019 AfroBasket finals by defeating Kenya on Monday, 90-72.

The Egyptian Lady Topper duo — believed to be the first WKU basketball athletes to represent their senior national team while enrolled at the university — catapulted Egypt to a berth in the finals by posting stellar numbers throughout the round-robin tournament.

Elgedawy, an upcoming junior, showed why she was selected as an All-Conference USA Second Teamer last year by averaging 11.7 points and 11.7 rebounds per game over the final three games of the tournament. Rising sophomore Abdelgawad showcased an all-around game by averaging nine points, four rebounds and 2.4 assists per game over all five contests.

During the course of the tournament, both ladies rose to the occasion and had breakout performances when their team needed them most.

Abdelgawad willed the Egyptians to an 86-82 victory over Kenya in the opening round by tallying nine of her team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter. The Cairo native later knocked down a clutch 3-pointer in the final minute to hold off the surging Ugandans.

Elgedawy dominated the paint in a 78-73 win in the semifinal round over Rwanda by dropping in 10 points and snatching 21 boards, the second-most by any player in a single AfroBasket qualifying game this year.

The Egyptian team’s continued success in world competition resulted in a fourth straight AfroBasket finals appearance. The country finished in the top eight over their last three showings in the finals, but they have not finished higher than seventh place since the 2000 competition.

Prior to their showings on the world stage, Abdelgawad and Elgedawy helped the lady Lady Toppers to a 20-15 record in the 2018-19 campaign. The team’s run included a semifinal finish in the C-USA Tournament and wins over Miami (OH) and Morehead State in the Postseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

Elgedawy averaged 15.4 points and a team-high 7.7 rebounds per game while also compiling 29 blocks over the course of last season. Abdelgawad started all 35 games as a freshman and averaged 8.1 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game in her debut campaign.

The two Lady Toppers will compete in the 2019 AfroBasket finals in Dakar, Senegal, from Aug. 9 to 18. Abdelgawad and Elgedawy will look to lead the Egyptians — one of 12 national teams to reach the finals — to their first title since 1968 as the United Arab Republic.

Reporter Jesse Spencer can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected].