29 November 2013
UGANDA : Oilers dare Falcons
Oilers’ James Okello (left) is fouled by Falcons’ Herbert ‘Shaq’ Akhita during regular season. The two teams play Game One of the 2013 final tonight. Photo by Ismail Kezaala.
Today at Lugogo:
Finals Game One
M: City Oilers vs Falcons (7.30pm)
W: UCU vs KCCA (9.30pm)
It’s been six long years since Falcons were champions of the national basketball league and their record of titles stands at six, one more than DMark Power.
That period has had too few highs and bundles of lows, among them a player exodus in 2009 and a torrid regular season this year due to management strife.
They did reappear in the final in 2008, losing 3-1 to Power in a five-game series. From then on, they waited another four years until 2012. n a year many remember for the death of club founder John Ssimbwa (RIP), Falcons failed to add to their titles, beaten 4-2 by Riham Warriors in a seven-game final series.
Amid the troubles of this term highlighted by a seventh-place finish in regular season, they will appear in another final. Their opponent is newcomers City Oilers. Game One of a possible seven at Lugogo today.
The last time Falcons were champions, Oilers were not even a concept in mind let alone on paper. Just 12 months ago, Falcons were fighting to add to their record as Oilers slugged it out in Division Two. Surely, fifth seeds Oilers should come to be mauled. Not that easy. Copying from the exact manner in which Falcons earned revenge on Warriors in the semis, Oilers won three in a row to beat Power .
“At the start of the season, our target was to reach the final and then look at the title,” Jimmy Enabu, who scored 53 points in the semis despite missing Game One, said.Enabu’s arrival from Power, the acquisition of Rwandese ‘big man’ Kami Kabange and Mandy Juruni, a champion with Warriors last year, has elevated arguably the best organized club to the pinnacle.
Unlike during the regular season when they split their two games, Juruni is getting a lot more contributions from the peripheral players especially forward Ramadhan Arou and Daniel ‘Najja’ Juuko.
Power didn’t have the weapons to limit Oilers but Falcons will. It’s fairly balanced among the guards even if the latter’s pair of Abdullahi Ramadhan and Geoff Omondi are more experienced. Coach Gad Eteu’s inside players – Philip Ameny, Peter Elungat, Herbert ‘Shaq’ Akhitah, Serge Kabangu and Stephen Omony – are expected to challenge Kabange and Arou more than any other team.
Omony’s 78 points in semifinals also signify a return to the player many last saw in the early 2000s before he turned pro in Seychelles.
Falcons want this badly having taken a tough path in beating second seed UCU Canons in the quarters and dethroning Warriors at the semis.
What a story it will be if Oilers win the national title, two years after they entered the league at the bottom in Division Three.