26 December 2007

KENYA : KPA teams clinch rare league double


Kenya Ports Authority become the first team to win both the men’s and women’s national basketball league titles in one season in the 20 years of the championship.

Ethel Wakesho of KPA (right) dribbles under pressure from Eunice Auma of Telkom during a league match at NyayoNational Stadium. KPA won both the men’s and women’s league titles. Photo/MOHAMMED AMIN
KPA succeeded where other institutional teams such as the National Social Security Fund, Kenya Commercial Bank, Nairobi Posta, Barclays Bank and Kenya Railways failed despite previously entering men’s and women’s teams in the finals.

The national league was inaugurated in 1987 but until this year, no team had managed to clinch a double.

The ports men, who had won the first competition in 1987, emerged as the 2007 Division One league champions. They registered a 2-1 win over Telkom in the play-offs finals.

Both teams had locked 1-1 in the best-of-three series but KPA carried that day after winning the decisive Game Three 75-72. KPA and Telkom both qualified for promotion to the 2008 Premier League.

As if that was not enough, KPA women’s team, which had no opposition, also grabbed the cup by beating inexperienced Flames of the United States International University of Africa 2-0.

Flames, Eagle Wings and University of Nairobi’s Terrorists had showed determination to qualify for the post-season play-offs for the first time.

Fans had to wait in their terraces up to mid-night to witness KCB Lions, KPA Clubs crowned the 2007 champions.

The decisive Game Three matches had started late 7.30 pm after the venue had hosted a professional boxing contest.

The season, which got underway in April, was the most diluted than the past year’s with top teams pulling out at the last minute because of lack of sponsorship. It was the first time ever for both the previous men’s and women’s winners to fail to defend their titles.

Ulinzi Warriors and Telkom, who had won the 2006 championships, had to withdraw from the race leaving the competition without excitement.

Most of the players who turned out for Telkom were retrenched while Ulinzi broke up with a plan to start their respective unit teams within the Armed Forces.

Ulinzi Warriors had remained a power house on the local scene becoming the first side to win the league title five times in a row from 2002 to 2006.

In the absence of Ulinzi, KCB Lions got a chance to clinch their second crown after waiting for six years. Lions rocked Co-operative Bank 2-0 in the best-of-three series play-offs final. They had won their first title in 2001.

Other top clubs that missed out of the 2007 championship were Sprite Stormers and Nakuru Club and Coast Youth Club.

The season saw top players switch to other teams after the disbandment of their clubs than before.

International players such as Ancette Wafula, John Apollo, Moses Shida, Mike Olaka, Ben Mufutu, among others, were left with no option than to sign for new clubs such as Telkom, International Christian Centre and KPA to remain active.

A bulk of former Telkom players led by Joyce Makungu, Caroline “Majeng’’ Achieng, Eunice Ouma and Pamella Asige had to join newly formed Eagle Wings for the 2007 season. They guided Eagle Wings to the play-offs semi-final where they lost 2-0 to KPA.

Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF) cracked a whip throwing out of the league three teams that had failed to pay participation fees of Sh25,000.

They are Nakuru Club, Blazers and Langata Crusaders. Chairman Agina Wesonga said running the league was expensive and they needed money to pay officiating referees and hiring of the venue.

After a long time, the men’s and women’s national teams were busy in the international championships where they performed well. The men’s side finished third in the Zone Five qualifying matches in Kigali, Rwanda.

Kenya finished fifth

Egypt emerged the winners to book a ticket to the All Africa Games that were staged in Algeria. The national women’s side won the Zone Five qualifier also to earn a ticket Algiers. Kenya finished fifth in the Pan African Games.

The local girls played eight matches, won five and lost three.

KBF chairman Agina Wesonga said Kenya had a good performance and only lost with a narrow margin to Senegal and Nigeria in their preliminary round matches. Senegal won the Pan Africa games gold medal. Later the women’s side participated in the Africa Cup in Dakar, Senegal.

Agina said Kenya finished last because of the inadequate preparations. “We got the tickets on the last day after having not been sure of traveling,’’ said Wesonga. Mali upset hosts Senegal to win the Cup and qualify to represent Africa in the Olympics. Angola will feature in the men’s tournament.

KPA failed to make an impact when they represented Kenya in the Africa club championship in Maputo, Mozambique.

The ports women finished eighth overall after losing 46-34 to Mali in the play-offs tie. National tournaments were a flop with top teams skipping the show due to lack of incentives to the winners.

Kenya hosted the FIBA-Africa instructors course in Nairobi where the international referees from English speaking countries were eligible to participate.

Vitalis Gode and Fred Awuor represented Kenya.

KBF chairman said the year was successful basing on the national women team’s good show in the Pan African Games and the Africa Cup.

He said younger players were given a chance to play for Kenya with three coming from Flames of the USIU-A.

“The exposure the girls got helped them guide Flames to the play-offs for the first time’’ said Wesonga.

Wesonga, who will not defend his seat in next month’s federation national elections said the Officials to be elected most be ready to sacrifice 100 perfect of their time and finances in order to succeed in running KBF.

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