09 October 2013

UGANDA : DMark Power in early ‘auditions’ for play-offs

Power’s Isaac Afidra tries to pile on the points in a recent fixture.
Power’s Isaac Afidra tries to pile on the points in a recent fixture. PHOTO BY Ismail Kezaala.  KAMPALA

Not often do teams in the Airtel National League get to play four games within a space of eight days. The scheduling sometimes has some teams even play once a fortnight.

At most, it’s three games in six days. Largely, every team plays one game every 10 days. Fuba have a tough balancing act in designing the fixtures for the 63 teams across all the divisions. Factor in the harsh reality of the game being heavily dependent on two venues – YMCA court and the Lugogo MTN Arena – and you know it’s hard to find the perfect calendar.

The 22 regular season games in the topflight are spread out over a period of six months.
Come play-offs, that luxury of resting is taken as teams play at least two games a week from now on. It could be 15 games in six weeks if a team goes all the way to the final. With the play-offs around the corner, DMark Power will get a ‘head-start’. This is a crowded week as the former champions have to play four games in between two Sundays.

Today at YMCA court, Power face Ndejje University Angels. Coach Bernes Ankunda’s team beat Charging Rhino 57-54 on Sunday and has to play UCU Canons and KIU over the next five days. It should be best preparation any team could get before making a charge towards the championship, something Power must have a craving for following the failures of last year.

Power, winners of 17 of their 19 games, are locked in a fight for the summit with UCU who have won 16 of 19 as both try to avoid a quarterfinal matchup with seventh-placed Falcons. “For now, we can only prepare for the next game,” Ankunda reckoned. Over the past month which included the passing of Ankunda’s wife, Power have experienced a renaissance from their scorers. Ben Komakech and Joseph Ikong have provided the key after slow starts to the season and are hitting the right codes just in time for the playoffs. Norman Blick, the reigning MVP, is almost bound to have a say very soon. Ndejje have mastered the knack of throwing a spanner in the works as their fifth place manifests.
However, the habit of running out of steam remains their major worry as they squandered a 10-point lead to lose 69-67 to City Oilers on Sunday to drop to 14-6. Geoffrey Soro, eight points on Sunday, should have a relatively easier game as Power don’t have the same kind of inside presence as Oilers’ do. 
Elsewhere, Falcons’ hopes of finishing above KIU Titans will remain or be extinguished today. The latter won the first encounter 61-59 and Falcons must win by three points to stay in the hunt. Even such a victory wouldn’t be enough as Falcons will then ‘pray’ for Power to beat KIU in order to hand them sixth on platter
Quarterfinal Match-ups: Power and Falcons are likely to meet in the quarterfinals but its a match-up both sides would love to avoid. But should Power finish second and Falcons 7th, the match-up will be inevitable.

Ndejje Jinx
Ndejje have never beaten Power since promotion to the top tier in 2009.
Power were knocked out of the playoffs last season in the quarterfinals
Either of Power or UCU will finish as seed one and play eighth-placed Rhino in the semis

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