22 December 2015

UGANDA - Heroic Oilers can’t afford to rest on their laurels

Oilers etched themselves in the annals of basketball history as one of Uganda’s finest ever sides. photo by I. KEZAALA 
By Robert Madoi

Posted  Sunday, December 20   2015 at  02:00

Since joining the topflight, City Oilers’ status as a pillar in Ugandan club basketball has only solidified. It’s foolish not to take them seriously especially after they came full circle this past week by completing a sensational three-peat.
There was an eerily similarity between Oilers’ conquest of UCU Canons and that of Falcons in the playoff finals three years back. Both finals series needed a decider that saw Oilers admirably fray nerves in the closing frame. And there were also unlikely heroes after the final roll of the dice. Daniel ‘Najja’ Juuko in 2013 and James Okello on Wednesday. But that’s as far as the similarities got.

While the Falcons trio of Stephen Omony, Dullah Ramathan and Philip Ameny cut the picture of the Rolling Stones on one final tour, Canons players like Steven Wundi and Jonathan Egau were the very embodiment of new kids on the block. Also the fact that the Canons were first-time finalists meant that they wouldn’t have in their possession a book of ready-made questions and answers as did Falcons in 2013.

Conversely, when the unheralded Oilers took on a Falcons outfit steeped in great bas-ketball tradition, there was no prize for guessing who were the underdogs. Falcons’ know-how that had raked half a dozen titles put them in the box position. Yet they would go onto be dealt a sharp setback in a riveting finals series.

Playoff finals can be a minefield of expectations. Just ask Power who didn’t know what had hit them in last year’s finals when Oilers turned on the style. In fact, when Oilers opened up a 2-0 lead a fortnight ago, many feared that in the offing was a whitewash not to dissimilar from the one Power suffered last year. Canons, though, would go on to defy the odds by ensuring that the best-of-seven series went down to the wire.

Having been treated dismissively going into the playoff finals, the Canons will be pleased that they for once didn’t implode. Sure, they will look back with regret at those pair of missed free throws by Ivan Lumanyika in game five and the cold display during the final frame of the decider. But in a sense, they overachieved; never mind that their sheer force of will failed to carry the day.

How about Oilers then? A three-peat is a surefire way of persuading observers that things are prim and proper. That the club is a legend of our time. But the fact that they never quite found satisfactory answers to questions the Canons asked means that they will be looking over their shoulder.

Oilers now face a tricky tightrope walk between sticking with a squad that memorably won a three-peat and trying to further strengthen it. The itchiness around the decision seems to come specifically from attaching concern to the fact Power finally mustered a postseason win against them and Canons ran them close in the finals. If a dynasty is what Oilers are looking at creating, resting on their laurels should be the last thing on their minds. Some times if it ain’t broke you still have to fix it. Just ask Jose Mourinho.

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