28 November 2012

UGANDA : Close call as Warriors, Falcons brace for finals

CRUNCH TIME: Warriors Brian Gumisiriza
Ahead of the 2012 Airtel Fuba League playoffs finals between Blue Cube Falcons and Kyambogo Warriors that roll off on Sunday, Moses Mugalu assesses each team’s credentials for the title.

It’s been four long years for Falcons fans. The most successful team in the history of Ugandan basketball finally made it to the playoffs finals after edging out KIU Titans in the decisive match last Friday. On the same night, Warriors overcame UCU Canons in five tough matches.
Winning six championships in eight finals appearances, it seemed at one time as if it wasn’t a classic playoffs finals without the presence of Falcons. Only five players remain from the team that won the 2007 title. These include Peter Elungat, Douglas Uwizera, Brian Ssentongo, Francis Tumusiime and Tony Oluka, who is now the head coach.
It has also been a long ride for Falcons’ Geoffrey Omondi and Ivan Enabu of Warriors; two outstanding players that switched clubs with little success and are yet to win the championship. For a Falcons team that narrowly avoided relegation last season, making the final is the lowest they could achieve after making some big and much-needed changes at the start of the season.
Oluka’s side cruised all the way in the regular season. Indeed, everything went smoothly until the playoffs semis, where Titans made them pay for the slightest of complacencies. Warriors, meanwhile, took an even harder route to the finals; having twice come from a game down before shooting down the Canons.
Both teams have an identical 5-2 win-loss record in the playoffs but it’s the former that has broken less sweat. See, Warriors benefited from UCU Canons’ self-destruction more than their own efforts and it’s clear they have played below expectations in post-season. However, there is no indication of their waning powers as long as they keep winning when it matters most.
On the individual score, there are a few factors that could determine the result of this series. The first one is; how motivated will the Warriors’ Malinga brothers [Henry and Eric] be against the team that made them stars?
Next, Falcons talisman Stephen Omony must be a factor against Michael Kariuki of Warriors. Omony is much more all-round and has the chance of being a big threat on both ends of the court. Also expect the rejuvenated Steven Okias of Warriors to be under the radar once again as he goes against Phillip Ameny.
Meanwhile, rebounding could be a spark for Warriors. Sam Gombya’s body size and Norman Blick’s reach should cause problems underneath for Falcons. However, it’s on the three-point line that Falcons might hold an advantage because in Omony, Tumusiime and in particular Ramathan Abdallah, they can hurt Warriors from all ranges.
The two teams shared out the two regular season games and going by form, it should also be a tight contest.

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