Big clashes headline BAL playoffs classification round

Marcus Crawford helped US Monastir recover from a 0-3 start to qualify for the BAL Playoffs. PHOTO/CHEIKH HAIDARA

What you need to know:

Led by Marcus Crawford, Ater Majok and Oussama Marnaoui, the Tunisian side came out of a big hole to make the playoffs and will now fancy their chances of returning to Tunis with a second BAL title.

Season Four of the Basketball Africa League has reached the business end of things with the BAL Playoffs set to tip off in Kigali, Rwanda on Friday.

The Playoffs and Finals will take place from May 24 to June 1 at the BK Arena, with the top eight teams from the regular season set to compete for the top prize.

Three teams from the Kalahari and Sahara Conference, and two from the Nile Conference make the total number of eight with an opportunity to clinch the title.

Al Ahly Ly (Libya), Al Ahly SC (Egypt), AS Douanes (Senegal), Cape Town Tigers (South Africa), FUS Rabat (Morocco), Petro de Luanda (Angola), Rivers Hoopers (Nigeria) and US Monastir (Tunisia) are the teams in contention.

The eight teams have been ranked based on the points accumulated in the conference phase and the BAL Playoffs and Finals will begin with a classification round where the top team will play against the next best team.

These clashes, introduced for the first time in the BAL, will precede the quarterfinals and determine the last eight fixtures.
At the quarterfinals stage, the losing teams will be eliminated from the tournament.

Al Ahly Ly vs. Cape Town Tigers

The first game of the playoffs will see newcomers Al Ahly Benghazi facing off with Cape Town Tigers. The Libyan side finished second in the Nile Conference with a 3-3 record despite injury to key player Pierre Jackson.

Playing in the BAL for the first time, the Libyan outfit has relied on star players like Solo Diabate and Lual Lual Acuil to get to the playoffs. They will be favourites against a Cape Town Tigers side that only qualified as one of the two best third-placed teams.

Al Ahly vs. FUS Rabat

Defending champions Al Ahly go into the playoffs as a team with the best record, having topped the Nile Conference with a 5-1 record in Cairo. A shock 82-81 defeat to Uganda’s City Oilers is the only dent on the Egyptian side’s report.

Agusti Julbe’s troops will come up against the Kalahari Conference winners FUS Rabat in what is expected to be a tightly-contested affair.

With players like Ehab Amin, Omar Oraby, Prince Ali, Patrick Gardner and Tony Mitchell Jr., Al Ahly go into the playoffs as one of the favourites to go all the way. That would make them the first team to defend the BAL title.

AS Douanes’ Abdoulaye Harouna is one of the players to watch in Kigali, Rwanda. 

Aliou Diarra, John Jordan, Abdelhakim Zouita, Ayoub Nouhi and Kendrick Brown helped Rabat do the business in the Kalahari Conference and will be no pushovers for last year’s winners.

Petro de Luanda vs. US Monastir 

Petro de Luanda’s search for a BAL title is on. The Angolan giants were among the favourites last season but fell to Senegal’s AS Douanes in the semifinals and ended up finishing fourth after another disappointing defeat to Stade Malien in the third-place game.

Petro, who finished second in the Kalahari Conference, will be looking to go all the way this time, and a good start will help raise the confidence in a squad that features local heroes Carlos Morais and Childe Dundao.

Monastir, meanwhile, needed a late push to qualify from the Sahara Conference after a terrible 0-3 start to the action in Dakar, Senegal.

Led by Marcus Crawford, Ater Majok and Oussama Marnaoui, the Tunisian side came out of a big hole to make the playoffs and will now fancy their chances of returning to Tunis with a second BAL title.

Rivers Hoopers vs. AS Douanes

If there is a team that has learnt lessons in the history of the BAL, it is Rivers Hoopers. After a dismal display in the inaugural BAL season, where the Nigerian side were eliminated with a 1-2 record, Season Four has presented Africa with one of the best teams.

The team is fresh from winning the Sahara Conference in Dakar and will be looking to make some noise in the playoffs. Will Perry, Devine Eke and Peter Olisemeka helped the Kingsmen to win the Conference and will now be looking to get them to the title.

They come up against a physical AS Douanes side that features Jean Jacques Boissy, Mike Fofana, Abdoulaye Harouna and Madut Akec. The Senegalese side were in the finals last season and carry a bit more playoffs experience compared to their West African counterparts.

But with the level the Hoopers showcased in Dakar, including defeating Douanes in front of their home crowd, the Nigerian side will go into the clash as slight favourites.