When it mattered most, the Namuwongo Blazers basketball club failed to tilt the scale in their favour, as they ended up losing the National Basketball League (NBL) best of seven finals 3-4.
The 66-64 final score to the now eight-time defending champions City Oilers was pretty close and, therefore, gut-wrenching for the many that wanted Oilers’dominance stopped.
Despite that too close yet eventually too far attempt, as it turned out to be for Namuwongo, they ensured that the basketball fraternity lived through a pulsating moment, making next year one to look forward to. Oilers had created the impression that they were in another league, following their domestic success that started in 2013.
Yet, the fact that Oilers’ 3-1 lead in the finals was eaten away, as the series tied, was a pointer that the gulf in class between the two is not so big. At the same time, Namuwongo and Oilers are arguably the most organized men’s teams in the league, with an array of the country’s top talent. But the Uganda Christian University (UCU) are probably not far off.
Their women’s team proved their resolve, when they dethroned the two-time defending champions the JKL Dolphins. While the Dolphins had gone the entire regular season unbeaten, they seemed to have sealed the championship, after they led UCU 3-1.
But inspired by an unrelenting Rose Akon, UCU tore through Dolphins’ defences, to win three games in a row, and ultimately the championship for the first time since 2017. Akon was sensational in the final play-off series, as was Oilers’ Nigerian import, Francis Azolibe.
In many ways, this duo got their teams over the finish line with some sublime finishing. Uganda men’s national team, the Silverbacks, advanced to the second round of the Fiba World Cup 2023 qualifiers, and they are in group E alongside Cape Verde, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Angola and Guinea.
Those qualifiers continue in February next year, after Uganda lost the first window qualifiers to Angola, Ivory Coast and Guinea in August. Because the team has not had ample preparation, due to late government funding, the Silverbacks prospects of going to the World Cup do not look good.
At least, not as good as it turned out for Uganda’s under-18 girls national team, who played in the Africa Championship held in Madagascar in August. Uganda finished fifth overall in a tournament that had eight teams, a huge suggestion of the potential Shilah Lamunu and Mariam Namukwaya, among others, possess.
Source: The Observer