Kampala. The National Basketball League playoff semifinal tie between City Oilers and KIU Titans is delicately poised after the former pulled off a 76-69 game two victory at the Lugogo MTN Arena on Sunday evening.
The result set up a highly anticipated game three at Lugogo this evening in the best-of-five semifinal series that is a repeat of last year’s final swept 4-0 by the Oilers who are chasing a sixth consecutive title.
KIU have, however, been the more aggressive side so far in the Tusker Lite-sponsored playoffs as evidenced in the 83-61 game one victory last Friday.
They also looked on course to take a vital 2-0 series lead as they held a 44-29 advantage going into the third quarter before the Oilers got inspiration from an unlikely source.
Point guard Josh Johnson has rarely shown the ability that saw him drafted into the national team before he moved back from the UK.
His repoitoire was on show scoring 17 points in addition to limiting Michael Bwanga’s offensive threat.
“We showed the heart of a champion. We just had to matchup their energy. We tried to neutralize their guards because they scored the bulk of their points and then we took some tough shots,” City Oilers coach Mandy Juruni said after game on Sunday.
Jimmy Enabu then showed why he’s regarded by many as the best Ugandan player in the league dropping 23 points and Landry Ndikumana woke from his slumber to add 12 points and 14 rebounds after going scoreless in the first two quarters.
James Okello was also pivotal holding his nerve on the line to sink final four shots on the charity line late in the game enroute to 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Yet as good as Oilers were, KIU felt they beaten at their own aggressive game.
“They did not do anything special. We were just not as aggressive in the final two quarters,” was the unanimous verdict from guards Chris Omanye, Sudi Ulanga and coach Brian Wathum.
“As long as we’re mentally ready. We can compete again,” Wathum added.
Bwanga led the Titans with 22 points while Omanye had 15 for KIU who are eyeing a first ever championship.
With the winner of tonight’s match guaranteed of assuming pole position in the best-of-five series, neither side will want to cede the initiative in a series that has become intense, enthralling and competitive with every passing game.