UGANDA : Down to the wire

Written by John Vianney Nsimbe & Felix Eupal

Warriors (men) and KCC Leopards (women) left the Lugogo Indoor stadium last Sunday wondering what might have been.

Just one win away from making the playoff finals, Warriors and KCC were beaten 74-68 by UCU Canons and 61-55 by A1-Challenge respectively. So, with the best of five series deadlocked at 2-2, the lingering question is who will win game five to meet DMark Power and UCU Ladies?

Game five is set for tomorrow and Sam Bahwayo, the former coach of ladies team Victoria Lakers, reckons matches between KCC and A1 are always unpredictable. He adds that A1 managed to get one over KCC last Sunday because they played a full court press. “I think KCC’s players just under-performed. But once they reflect on their mistakes, like bad shooting and defensive holes, they’re poised to win game five.”

KCC’s centre, Annet Nakiwu, who normally leads the scoring with close to 15 points only scored four points and that has had a lot to do with persistent late coming since game two. Such indiscipline showed in the poor display from Timothy Odeke’s team especially when called upon to shoot. Only four three-pointers were converted from 19 attempts. But that statistic wasn’t entirely decisive since A1 also converted four three-pointers of their sixteen attempts.

What was decisive was the no-show of KCC’s star players, Becky Akullo and Miriam Hamala. Akullo and Hamala only scored nine and five points respectively despite playing a whole 32 minutes of a possible 40. By keeping the likes of Akullo at bay, all indications are that A1 has improved defensively, and this should bode well for them. A non-committal Akullo, however, believes things will go KCC’s way if they manage to unlock A1’s defence.

Other observers like Joe Burua believe KCC are slight favourites because they historically handle pressure better than A1. On occasions when A1 had to win game five, they always lost. In 2007, after tying the series in the finals against KCC, they lost game five. In 2008, they lost game five to UCU Ladies with two minutes left on the clock when they had a six point lead. “We will end that bad streak this time,” A1’s coach, Hamza Nyambogo confidently said.

Over the years, KCC has intimidated A1. In last year’s final, despite A1 carrying the favourites tag, KCC ran out comfortable 4-1 winners. Last Sunday, Hatima Kassim made amends by scoring a game high 19 points. But this A1 side is over dependent on Kassim; once Kassim is out, Mavita Ali, Betty Namukasa and Victoria Nassolo usually struggle to come to the party.

Elsewhere, Warriors let complacency get to their heads after their 96-49 game three win over UCU. They were duly brought back down to earth by the university side last Sunday. A confident Eric Malinga attributed Warriors’ poor performance not on complacency but rather a bad day at the office.

To have a better day at the office, Warriors coach, Gad Eteu, says they’re concentrating on the rebounds because that’s what killed them last Sunday. UCU won 45 rebounds against Warriors’ 36. Of these, 29 were offensive UCU’s while Warriors had 23.

All this has set the stage for what should be keenly contested encounters.