Monday May 5 2014

Makerere-UCU serve delicious women’s final

Lamunu (R)  and Otim emerged MVPs.

Lamunu (R) and Otim emerged MVPs. 

By Sande Bashaija

Women’s basketball games in Uganda are boring. That’s general perception among the not-so-staunch basketball fans.
During the national league, very few women’s games attract sizeable crowds. When the local basketball governing body, Fuba, signed a live television broadcast deal last year, women were told they have no place on the screen. Live television is only for the men’s topflight.

To fit in the television programming, women were also told they would play late in the night after the men. That meant they played before empty stands since most spectators walked away at the conclusion of the men’s fixtures. Those who came to Lugogo for the Zuku University Basketball League finals on Saturday probably expected a similar scenario. At the end of the night, though, many left impressed by the agility female basketballers exhibited.
“This is the best women’s game I have watched in a long time,” Bernard Kibirango, one of the spectators, commented.
Just like Kibirango, many more fans were pleased with Makerere and Uganda Christian University (UCU).

Fast, high-scoring, tension-packed; the women’s final had everything but dunks. The men’s final between Ndejje and UCU, which the former won 61-45 was nothing but boring.

The women’s game ended 90-87 in favour of Makerere. The high score was as surprising as the winners.
Before the start, UCU fans sang , urging their team to hit Makerere for a century. A win for UCU is what most expected. Afterall, UCU had beaten Makerere in the regular season. This was a final, though.
Makerere approached it casually. They warmed up by dancing to some Luganda tunes and looked out of place as UCU did their textbook stretches. Very few took Makerere serious. Their opponents, too, seemed to have taken them for granted.

Even after taking a 19-16 first quarter lead, which they later stretched to 44-34 at half time, the general belief in the indoor stadium was that Makerere would crumble. They didn’t. Slyvia Nakazibwe played like she is the best point guard in Uganda. The tinny Joy Chemutai was too swift on the fast-break you would think UCU intentionally refused to mark her because of her frame. She punished them with 25 points.
UCU’s biggest stars Maureen Amoding and Purity Odhiambo didn’t have the best of starts.

While Amoding rejuvenated her self in the second half, garnering 29 points in total, including four three-pointers which changed the tide of the game, Odhiambo didn’t. She was so ordinary by her standards.

Third quarter was evenly contested (23-23) even though UCU coach Boniface Okello earned himself a dismissal from the arena with a verbal attack of the match officials. As they cut the deficit to 60-69 in the fourth, UCU lost Everlyene Adhiambo to a terrible knee injury. They still continued to push and Makerere looked vulnerable after losing their centre and eventual MVP Clare Lamunu (26 points) to muscle cramps.

With under two minutes to play, Amoding notched two back-to-back three pointer to cut Makerere’s lead to 84-79. At that moment, UCU fans had the hope of turning the game. It never happened. Makerere finally recorded their biggest triumph in recent times.