It was meant to be an occasion when Ugandan basketball only celebrated its biggest ever sponsorship for the national team and then a friendly game.
Not only did Fuba sign a US$50, 000 deal (about Shs125m) with Chinese tire company Linglong Tire, the Silverbacks’ preparations for the Fiba Africa Zone V Championships also got a fitting test.
Fuba president Ambrose Tashobya and Shandong Linglong Tyre Company managing director Marry Wang signed the historic deal that will go a long way in helping the team.
Gracious messages went back and forth and Tashobya saw this as a milestone. “We have never got a sponsorship like this so we hope it’s the start of a long partnership,” Tashobya said.
Zhao Yali, China’s ambassador to Uganda, Disaster preparedness minister Hillary Onek, sports minister Charles Bakkabulindi, Olympic committee chairman William Blick and City Tyres boss Omar Mandela witnessed the signing.
The crowd, almost synonymous with the playoffs, cheered loudly. Little did they know the cheers would even grow louder as a trial game was played with the intensity of a decisive Game Seven in the finals.
Uganda’s Silverbacks recovered from a seven-point deficit with 41 seconds to force airtime and beat a Kenya Select side 86-75 in overtime in a tough match to clinch the inaugural Linglong Cup.
One week after losing 64-54 to league champions City Oilers, Silverbacks again had a slow start and trailed by as many as 16 points. They never lost the fight, outscoring Kenya 12-5 in the final 41 seconds.
It was tied at 71-up. Only one team showed up in overtime and it was Silverbacks, dominating 15-4 through an unlikely hero, a new hand and the old guard.
MVP John Balwigaire
New hand – John John Balwigaire – deservedly got the MVP accolade. Starting at shooting guard, he went 6 for 9 from behind the arc to finish with 23 points on his Ugandan bow.
“That was tough,” John Balwigaire (pic) said. “I got to know a lot about my teammates and we fought hard. I always hope I can shoot better.”
Old guard – Stephen Omony – recovered from an early slumber to score a game-high 27 points then rallied his mates to step up. “Zone V will even be harder than this,” said Omony.