13 November 2012

UGANDA : Brutal clash ends with series all square

Warriors’ power forward Henry Malinga (L) blocks UCU’s Martin Okwako from sight of the hoop.
Warriors’ power forward Henry Malinga (L) blocks UCU’s Martin Okwako from sight of the hoop. PHOTO BY ISMAIL KEZAALA
Punches flew. Kicks were thrown. Elbows were aplenty as Warriors beat UCU Canons 66-56 on Sunday night to tie the best-of-five semifinal Fuba League playoff series at 1-1.
Luckily, there was no blood spilled on the Lugogo MTN Arena floor. Cyrus Kiviri bore the brunt as an elbow from UCU centre Desmond Owili sent him to hospital. “He felt dizzy and was nearly concussed,” his coach Mandy Juruni said. Ivan Enabu was the biggest villain, punching Sande Okot in the stomach in ‘broad daylight’.
The two, whose on court rivalry goes back to 2009 when they actually fought with Okot - then a Falcon and Enabu at UCU, have teetered on the brink of a repeat for long.
Okot has always been the instigator. This time, both kicked one another while on the floor and upon standing up, Enabu punched Okot. “I am not proud of what I did. It was poor judgement on my part but I signaled to the umpire that he had kicked me,” Enabu said. The umpires – Edward Sendi and Ivan Ssemanda – did a poor job.
“Definitely, that’s not us. It’s unfortunate. However, the refs should have been on top of everything,” Juruni added. Many must have agreed, as did UCU coach Nicholas Natuhereza. “In most of the incidents, we only reacted after being provoked but the umpiring here is poor,” said an apologetic Natuhereza.
Several players deserved ejections. Suspensions should be a minimum though it’s almost impossible to draw the line on who is innocent. Somehow, a massive brawl was avoided.
In several other off-the-ball incidents, Warriors’ Jude Ochen punched Sudi Ulanga, Kiviri and Michael Kariuki hit Owili and vice versa. Two years ago, Ochen and Robert Mugabe, then a UCU player, were banned for one game apiece following a fight in Game Two which Warriors won 70-66 to tie that series at 1-1.
Both sets of players did everything to ruin a story that should have read: Henry Malinga rolls back the years before fouling out. The veteran centre ruled again with a game-high 17 points, six rebounds and three blocks in his best game in ages. Okot and Brian Namake too fouled out.
Kariuki had 17 points and Norman Blick contributed 10 whereas Ulanga finished on 10. And UCU, again, failed to win two successive playoff games for the sixth time in six attempts.
Game Three is tomorrow at YMCA court.

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