Of City Oilers, Silverbacks and more

Komagun made his debut for the troubled Silverbacks. PHOTO/COURTSEY 

What you need to know:

There is a new basketball franchise in town. The JT Jaguars have just been promoted to Division One after just one season in Division Two.

Having already won seven National Basketball League titles in seven seasons, City Oilers started the year 2022 focussed on winning title number eight.

Their ambition, however, went way beyond winning the league. The idea of playing in the Basketball Africa League became part of the talk and the plan was to break into that space after two unsuccessful attempts.

But to start with the league, there was work to be done. Namuwongo Blazers recruited well and won hearts of fans, most of whom craved for a new champion and would support whoever beats Oilers.

The start was what the Ugandan audience is used to, Oilers losing on opening night. The Blazers defeated Mandy Juruni’s charges 72-65 to send a message that they were in it to compete and pose a threat to the Oilers' dominance.

A 63-61 win for Stephen Nyeko’s charges over Oilers completed the double in the regular season and Blazers looked the part with Saidi Amisi, Ariel Okall, David Deng and Paul Odongo in good form.

But in the end, it was the Oilers who cemented their place as the greatest basketball dynasty in the land a 66-64 Game Seven win over the Blazers to conclude what was an intense finals series and win an eighth Championship in eight seasons.

The 4-3 Finals series win left the Oilers heads and shoulders above the rest of the field with relegated Falcons as the closest on six championships.

James Okello was named MVP for a third time, closing the year on a high having lost his mother in the same season.

That was big for the Oilers but they defeated Burundi champions Urunani 71-62 in Johannesburg, South Africa to book a ticket to the coveted league.

Oilers has twice fallen -first due to their shortcomings on court in 2019 and the second time due to the Covid-19 pandemic that saw them pull out of the last window of Season Two qualifiers.

They finally made it to the promised land.

Big crowds for NBL Finals

The excitement didn’t leave the fans behind and Fuba struggled to deal with the overwhelming numbers that picked interest in the nail-biting finals.

The day of Game Seven, Lugogo was full by 3pm even when the action was set to tip off at 7pm.

By the time UCU Lady Canons and JKL Lady Dolphins started their decisive clash, the arena was full beyond its capacity and the crowd outside was bigger than the one inside.

Many who could not find their way in got an option of following the action from the big screens outside.

It is fair to say the crowd got their money’s worth considering the action from the two finals.

Lady Canons roar

If the Oilers-Blazers series were expected to be hotly contested, the same was not thought about JKL Lady Dolphins and the UCU Lady Canons.

JKL looked much stronger than the rest and indeed swept through the regular season unbeaten.

By the time the National Basketball League Finals started, Lady Dolphins had won 23 games in a row and were overwhelming favourites for the championship against a Lady Canons side that had lost in the two regular season meetings.

The university side had also lost to Angels in the first round of the regular season and fell to Magic Stormers in the first game of the quarterfinals before bouncing back to win Games Two and Three.

And the start to the series for JKL was perfect. Henry Malinga’s charges won the first two games with relative ease as their quality and experience got the better of their challengers.

Nicholas Natuhereza’s troops bounced back to win Game Three but they were back on the canvas when JKL took Game Four to lead the series 3-1.

UCU needed to win all the three remaining games and JKL only needed one to end the season in celebration.

Rose Akon and Millicent Otieno led the charge for the university side as they won Game Five 62-48 to stay alive in the series.

Momentum was with UCU going into Game Six and led to another win, 69-57 to force a Game Seven.

The Lady Dolphins were in trouble. Akon and Otieno were delivering the goods for UCU and Bridget Aber had stepped up for 15 points in Game Six.

Even without starting point guard Shakirah Nanvubya, Maimuna Nabbosa and Agatha Kamwada accounted for their minutes.

Game Seven was largely one sided and Otieno shot six of 13 from downtown on her way to a game high 28 points as the Lady Canons defeated JKL 75-67 to win the series 4-3. Akon scored 22 points and picked 29 rebounds to cap off her MVP season.

Troubled Silverbacks

Going by the team’s performance in 2021, that involved beating Nigeria and finishing sixth at Afrobasket, the Silverbacks have struggled to impress in 2022.

George Galanopoulos’ charges are still in the Fiba World Cup Qualifiers but will certainly not make it. Their latest misery came at the hands of Angola, who eased to an 84-62 win.

Ivory Coast followed, winning 92-80 before Uganda’s misery was compounded in a 76-69 loss to Guinea.

Uganda are bottom of the log in Group E, with a 1-6 record and three more games to play.

Jaguars conquer

There is a new basketball franchise in town. The JT Jaguars have just been promoted to Division One after just one season in Division Two.

They defeated Gulu Hawks 3-2 to win the championship and will now be targeting getting into the NBL.

Their ladies’ side, on the other hand, swept through the women’s Fuba Division One, winning all their games, including a 3-0 sweep of Kampala University to land the championship.

With players like Zainah Lokwameri, Rhoda Naggita, Annet Among, Brenda Kayaga, Sarafina Drichuru Muhayimina Namuwaya, Maureen Amoding, Sarah Ageno and Esther Marion, the top division is on notice.


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