20 November 2006
KENYA : Champions Ulinzi Overcome Co-op Bank
Kenya’s reigning basketball champions Ulinzi Warriors registered a big game one win over Co-operative Bank on Saturday to take a 1-0 lead in the best of three finals series.
In what has been termed as one of the hottest league games this year, veteran guard Ancette Wafula led champions Ulinzi Warriors with 26 points as they overcame a fighting Co-operative Bank side to register a 79-73 game one win. The game tipped off to an explosive start as the teams traded quick baskets at both ends, before Ulinzi went up 13-06 with 6:50 to go in the first quarter. Co-op recovered through Peter Kiganya, Furaha Odari, and Wycliffe Ochieng to come within a point (21-22) with 1:46 remaining, with Odari tying the game at 23-23 on the fast break seconds before the buzzer went off. Both teams were settled in the second quarter, playing a more defensive game as they once again tied at 32-32 (4:55) and 33-33 (3:50). Victor Odendo, Ancette Wafula and Vincent Ambani led the Warriors attack, while Kiganya, John Waruru and Johnson Karonji, who had another superb weekend, got big-plays for Co-op, including Karonji’s 3-pointer that put them at 37-38 with 2 seconds to the half. Co-op Bank came into the third quarter all-fired up, with Kiganya, Odari, Wycliffe Ochieng, and Daniel Gaiko leading the pack as they took the ball to Warriors territory, tying the game three times (at 43, 45, and 48) before going up 50-49 after Odari’s basket with 3:17 remaining. Kiganya made it 52-50 before Ochieng extended their lead after sinking back-to-back 3-pointers for a 58-54 lead at the end of the quarter. The final quarter was action packed, as Co-op maintained their offensive plays over Warriors, going up 70-61; their biggest lead in the game, after big-plays from Gaiko, Ochieng and Odari with 5:17 remaining, prompting Ulinzi’s Coach Eliud Nzioka to take a time out. On resumption, the never-say-die Warriors turned the tables around through John Apollo, Ambani and Tom Opar who sunk a crucial 3-pointer for a 69-70 score line with 4:02 to go, before sinking a second one 32 seconds later to give Ulinzi a 72-70 lead. However, their lead was short-lived as Kiganya got a quick basket at the other end, tying the game at 72-72 with 3:11 to go. John Apollo then put Ulinzi ahead for good, with Wafula getting quick baskets including a reverse dunk that sealed the victory at 79-73 with 11 seconds to go. Wafula shot 26 points, Odendo 13 and Opar 12 for Ulinzi, while Kiganya had 16, Ochieng 14, Odari 11 and Gaiko 8 for Co-op Bank. Game two is on next weekend.
Finals Series: Ulinzi Warriors Lead 1-0