22 March 2009

KENYA : St Austin’s new city champions


Saint Austin’s Academy are this year’s Nairobi boys’ basketball champions. St Austin’s humbled pre-match favourites Nairobi International School (NIS) 86-83 in a tough final at Hillcrest School, on Saturday.

St Austin’s head coach, David Maina, said he had a firm belief his side had the potential to win the title: “We talked about it in training, and our goal was to win the championship. This’ a great turnaround. We all feel very good about it. We’re all very proud of each other. There’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said.

Michael Owino, who scored six of his match’s-high 25 points in overtime, said: “I’m glad to have helped my team claim victory,”

Steven Odhiambo added 20 points and five rebounds as they led their team to a record 11th provincial title.

NIS’ head coach, Crispine Mbega watched as his side squander a 70-68 lead with only 30 seconds of play in the last quarter.

“It stings. It is a negative exclamation point on a final. It would have been nice to walk out of here with a smile, but such is life,” said Mbega.

For the newcomers, Said Hemed scored 29 points to go with 10 assists, while Daniel Elisha had 16 points and nine rebounds.

Done nice job

Elisha was guarding a backing-down Owino in the post when Odhiambo, suddenly sprinted down the lane past Hemed for an easy lay-up off the feed from Owino. That gave St Austin’s the lead, 62-60, with only two minutes left in the extra time.

“Owino has done a nice job for us,” Maina said. “Certainly going down the stretch it has given him a lot of confidence and should propel him into a better situation in future championships,” he said.

After taking a 8-4 lead within the first three minutes, there was no turning back for Austin’s as they held on that lead up to the ninth minute when the Mbega’s boys caught up with them at 27-25.

In a game that saw both teams share the lead at different times, was stretched to extra time, after the sides tied at 72-72.

“We knew that NIS would be defending a lot and they have a fouling problem, especially in this championship. So my boys kept on forcing those fouls,” said Maina.

Playing a very relaxed but coordinated game, the champions took advantage of the many technical errors and turnovers their experienced opponents were committing.

Guard Odhiambo was the main catalyst for the winners, terrorising his opponents with his ball artistry, as he hit baskets after baskets.

Meanwhile, just as MacDonald Mariga was instrumental during Harambee Stars’ World Cup qualification matches, so was his younger sister during the girls’ finals at Hillcrest School on Saturday.

Mercy Wanyama sunk 24 points to lead Langata High School to their first provincial title with a 51-36 victory over 2007 champions, St. George’s Secondary School.
“This is one of my happiest times in my life. Making it to the nationals has always been my dream and I thank God that we have managed this feat,” said the 17-year-old forward.The former champions took time to settle as the combined attack of Wanyama and Virginia Awino made unlimited visits at their opponents’ court, with a series of lay-ups to lead 27-15 at half time.
“I’ve been admiring how my brothers, Victor Mugabe and Mariga, perform at the national team and it is my hope that one day I’ll also don the national colours in basketball,” said the form three student at Langata.

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