03 January 2012

UGANDA : Power, UCU Share Podium

UCU Lady Canons and DMark Power won the national basketball league in contrasting fashion. UCU cruised to a second successive title whereas Power needed grit to complete a first defence of their crown this season..

With the exception of the loss to KCC Leopards in the regular season, UCU were absolutely magnificent. The improvement in centre Peace Proscovia was the most remarkable by any player across the four divisions.
Proscovia, a member of the Netball team that won Gold at All Africa Games in Mozambique, was too physical for any opposing player to handle.
This gave Purity Odhiambo and Lorraine Akinyi the freedom to dominate the inside as UCU swept KCC 4-0 in the finals. The attention on Maureen Amoding was lessened as she did the damage. KCC had expected to very competitive against coach Dale Sculy's side especially with the return of point guard Flavia Oketcho from a maternity sabbatical.
Oketcho's lack of influence on the game this season epitomised how poor KCC were. A maiden appearance for Magic Stormers into the playoffs was perhaps the best thing to happen to women's basketball. Not the same can be said of the men's division where Power and Warriors appeared in the finals for a third straight season. With them were UCU Canons and Miracle Eagles.
The acquisition of the Blick brothers - Norman and Donald - lifted Miracle this far even though the former really laboured through the season to support Stephen Omony. Miracle lost 3-1 to Power in the semis.
For UCU, they must be imagining what they need to do to get the finals - just one. They led 2-1 against Warriors only lose in a marquee Game Four.
The contest which kept Warriors alive went to double overtime as UCU finished with only three players, all guards, as everyone got ejected. Everyone must have YMCA court that day saying; "I have never seen anything like this before." Warriors reserve centre Sam Gombya decided that game with 16 points.
That was not an appetizer good enough to prepare fans for the seven-game final series. Warriors took a 2-0 lead only to lose three in a row. Game Six mirrored Game Four of the semifinals in terms of the situation Warriors dug themselves from. In the end, the final game had Isaac Afidra written all over it as the forward scored the go-ahead three-pointer (97-96) with nine seconds to go.
The thrill in that shot dwarfed the 27 points and 15 rebounds he managed to effectively rival teammate Ben Komakech for the MVP title. With that, Power had erased a 12-point deficit (89-77) with 5.12 minutes to go. A title sealed and the legacy of this Power team intact as they defended the league for the very first time. A hurting Ivan Enabu sat there motionless and inconsolable.
By far the most entertaining player in the country, he still hasn't won a national basketball title. His move from UCU to Warriors must have felt like the right step but there is work to do for him and coach Mandy Juruni who came in at the start from UCU Lady Canons.
Nonetheless, Ugandan basketball is a cage where no one is allowed entry, for now. The national team performed dismally at the Zone V Nations Championship in Kigali, Rwanda. The biggest pain was the way they squandered a 30-point advantage to lose to Burundi. In there, Omony, Komakech and Norman did well.
Questions in the aftermath of the dismal failure of the under-funded and ill-prepared team were about what former coach Gad Eteu did wrong. Someone has got find a solution as to why the league here is growing but Uganda still fails when taken out of its pond. The same cannot be said about KCC.
As the lone rangers, KCC carried Uganda's flag well at the Zone V club Championships in Tanzania. They reached the semifinals there. Besides them, all the other sides - Power, UCU ladies, Warriors and Miracle Eagles - didn't travel due to financial constraints. The sport, despite attracting thousands, still struggles to find funding.
In the words of Ankunda, this season could have gone any better. "We had grand opening by beating the Blick brothers and finished with the Malingas," he said, rather satirically.
Power beat Miracle on the opening day 96-91 and finished it by defeating the insurmountable Malinga brothers - Henry and Eric- who play for Warriors.

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