11 October 2013

UGANDA : Beaten Power seek reprieve

UCU shooting guard Sudi Ulanga (with ball) in action against Power
UCU shooting guard Sudi Ulanga (with ball) in action against Power in last year’s playoff quarter finals. Photo by Ismail Kezaala  Kampala- Neither DMark Power nor UCU Canons can finish lower than second. But both are quick to downplay the importance of finishing as the top seed heading into the playoffs.
That number one seeding could all but be decided today when the two Airtel National Basketball League regular season pace-setters meet at the Lugogo MTN Arena.

The loser of tonight’s encounter is almost certain to face seventh-placed Falcons in the quarterfinals, a three-game series many teams would rather avoid, given the chance to. “Is it more important for us to beat Power by whatever margin and lose to Falcons in the first round in the play-offs?” UCU coach Nicholas Natuehereza asks. Surely not!
Power share the sentiment. “You have to play against all the teams to be champions so you cannot pick games,” two-time MVP Ben Komakech reasons. 
Wednesday night’s 61-67 loss to Ndejje University Angels dropped a ‘jaded’ Power to 17-3 in week when they have five games in eight days to contend with. UCU, whom the five-time champions beat 82-75 in the first round, are 16-3. They have a combined five games to play to reach the 22-game mark.

UCU must win by at least eight points to get first place in case the two finish with an identical record.
When they met earlier this season, both were on nine-game winning streaks. Then, Isaac Afidra took charge with 29 points and 16-rebound performance. And he has a warning for UCU. “My advice would be come ready for Power. You would say I’m the guy who beat UCU but I would say Power beat UCU,” Afidra says.
“We played defence as a unit, drove that ball in offence, which is why I ended up playing the way I did. If you focus on me alone you could pay.” The ability for different players to rise to the occasion is hallmark of Power. Cyrus Kiviri, scorer of a futile team-high 21 points and nine rebounds knows that.
“I don’t care if Afidra makes eight three-pointers because that game came down to the two threes of Emmanuel Enabu and Magaiva (Paul Odong) made when we got close,” Kiviri remembers. His eyes remain on the ultimate prize. “You and I know that it all comes down to getting past the semifinals (something UCU has never managed),” a champion with Warriors last year, adds.

Wednesday scores

M: Falcons 65-62 KIU
Power 61-67 Ndejje
W: A1 75-70 KCCA
Nabisunsa 68-77 KIU
Power vs UCU (8.30pm)
W: UCU vs KIU (6.30pm)

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