Oilers win eighth NBL Championship in eight years

City Oilers celebrate winning their eighth successive league title. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

What you need to know:

Francis Azolibe led the way for the champions in Game Seven with his 24 points and 12 rebounds to claim his second ring and must have been in the MVP conversation.

The City Oilers cemented their place as the greatest basketball dynasty in the land with Friday’s 66-64 Game Seven win over the Namuwongo Blazers sealing their 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.

Francis Azolibe led the way for the champions in Game Seven with his 24 points and 12 rebounds to claim his second ring and must have been in the MVP conversation.

His teammate James Okello was named MVP despite averaging nine points and nine rebounds compared to the Nigerian’s 13 points and seven rebounds.

All that didn’t matter in the end. The Oilers were out to defend their title and they did it, hard as it might have been.

“I dedicate this award to the whole team. This has been all about the team and we had to dig deep,” Okello told Sunday Monitor after Friday night’s action.

It has been a tough for the Oilers but especially for the Okello. The big man lost his mother in the early stages of the season and when the team travelled for burial, they got involved in an accident on their way back.

The championship is one Okello considers as his best.

“This year has been the best championship ever if I’m to celebrate. Losing my mum, team getting involved in an accident, all that shows that it’s been a tough year for me.

“I really have to celebrate this one.”

Tough run

Game Seven came down to nerves and Mandy Juruni’s side the team with the composure and execution when the stakes were high down the stretch.

Ben Komakech sank two free throws with three minutes and 56 seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter to give Oilers a 62-61 lead. There was no coming back from that by the Blazers who had the three-point shot elude them at the final stretch.

Okello and Tonny Drileba had struggled all game but made their free throws with both teams in foul trouble to deliver the eighth championship.

When Jimmy Enabu fouled David Deng from the perimeter with the clock running down, Oilers had a four-point lead with 0.6 separating them from another championship.

Deng made the first two free throws and intentionally missed the last shot to give his side the chance to rebound and put back to force overtime but Paul Odong’s shot drew the iron and went out as the buzzer signalled Oilers’ continued dominance and Blazers’ misery.

Azolibe had opened the scoring by connecting with Okello’s alley-oop for a monster dunk but Blazers responded with an 10-0 run to lead 10-2.

Oilers led 21-19 after the first quarter and 38-35. Blazers started the third frame with purpose and took it 20-10 to lead 55-48 going into the final 10 minutes of the season.

That is when the Oilers’ pedigree came to the fore. Saidi Amisi fouled out midway through the quarter while both Ariel Okall and Daniel Monoja were on four fouls. The Blazers were in foul trouble and oilers capitalised to seal the victory.

Eight for UCU

The UCU Lady Canons completed their come back from a 1-3 hole to win the series 4-3 and lift title number eight. Millicent Otieno shot six of 13 from downtown on her way to a game high 28 points as the Lady Canons beat JKL Lady Dolphins 75-67 before a packed Lugogo Indoor Stadium.

MVP Rose Akon gathered 29 rebounds to go with her 22 points to cement her place as the best player in the league. Hope Akello and Ritah Imanishimwe had 19 points each but these were not enough for the Lady Dolphins to complete a three-peat. 

National Basketball League

Game Seven results

Women: JKL 67-75 Lady Canons (UCU win 4-3)

Men: Nam Blazers 64-66 City Oilers (Oilers win 4-3)

Most Valuable Players (MVPs) 

Women: Rose Akon (UCU Lady Canons)

Men: James Okello (City Oilers)

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