UGANDA : Snatching sour defeat from jaws of victory

Women: Kenya v Tanzania (5pm)
Men: Uganda v Tanzania (7pm)
Result (Tuesday)
Men: Rwanda 103-60 Tanzania

If collapse was to be miss-spelt, it may as well be written as Uganda national men’s basketball team.

Tuesday night’s performance at the Fiba Africa Zone V Nations Championship in Kigali brought pain that tears couldn’t wash away.

Unimaginable, deplorable, shameful and unbelievable can best describe the mood within the team following a 72-70 loss to Burundi.

Knowing that Burundi are a running team, Uganda countered by playing a high tempo game from the start. It paid instant dividends with coach Gad Eteu’s team taking a 26-9 first quarter lead.

What happened thereafter is perhaps the biggest scandal. With 7.03 minutes on the clock, this lead had bludgeoned to 30 (40-10). Five Ugandans in the stands roared their voices hoarse to no avail as things went haywire. “How? How did that happen? Seriously, there is no way in explaining this,” vice-captain Ben Komakech told Daily Monitor. He was only echoing the thinking throughout the 34-man contingent.

Burundi retreated to zonal defence to limit Uganda’s scoring options to clinch the subsequent three quarters 23-15, 26-14 and 15-12.

Keen to erase his non-scoring nightmare against Kenya on Monday, Norman Blick shone with 16 points and five rebounds but his eight turnovers betrayed him greatly. Those eight were the biggest in the team’s haul of 28 turnovers that gifted Burundi 21 steals. Having squandered the game, coach Eteu called a time-out with two seconds left as the latter led 72-70.

From the inbound, point guard Ben Komakech (17 points) passed the ball to Stephen Omony (20). He made a desperate three-pointer that ended up as an air ball for the Burundians to make mission impossible possible. Yet to claim victory this time, Uganda face Tanzania tomorrow fighting a bad slice of history after failing to win a game at the last event two years ago. The event is also a qualifier for the Afrobasket and All Africa Games later this year.