City Oilers, the Airtel Fuba League defending champions, carry an aura of invincibility when they face traditional powerhouses of Ugandan basketball, but the trick just doesn’t work against UCU Canons, writes Felix Eupal.
City Oilers have never lost a play-off round, having blitzed their way to the title last year in their maiden topflight season. However, that is about to change if the Canons hold their nerve tonight at YMCA grounds in what promises to be a mouthwatering contest.
Canons lead the best-of-three semifinal series 2-0 and will clinch a berth in the final if they defeat the Oilers. Sunday’s 61-56 result might look like a close score-line but it doesn’t give the whole story of what transpired. The Canons not only signalled intent that 2014 could be their year to win a first title they outplayed, outclassed and outwitted Oilers.
Canons controlled the game from the paint, and squeezed Oilers at the back court. At one moment, Oilers found themselves chasing a 24-point deficit. Canons and Oilers have now played each other six times with the former leading 5-1 in the head-to-head meetings.
Oilers could miss the services of star guard Ben Komakech, who is struggling with an injury and has been a shadow of himself in the semis. However, Oilers coach Mande Juruni is yet to figure out how to stop the university side but he is confident of a comeback: “They [Canons] are not going to sweep us. We haven’t lost the desire to win and everything remains firmly in our hands,” he says.
But the Canons also want it badly they worked hard to turn around a Falcons lead in the quarters to sail through and there is a growing belief in the basketball fraternity that this is the year for Canons to get the monkey off their backs.
Looking ahead to the big game, Canons coach Nick Natuhereza is not planning anything special: “It is all about doing what we have always done focus on the defence and maintain composure.”
Canons star man Desmond Owili is also in buoyant mood and doesn’t care who they would meet in the final if they progress: “I don’t care, whoever comes [Warriors or Power] we will be ready for them.” It is the kind of confidence the team needs going into such a decisive fixture but, on the other hand. that cockiness could lead, to their downfall.
All in all, 40 minutes stand between Canons history and also between Oilers season.
Source : The Observer