The 2014 Airtel Fuba league play-off quarterfinals lived lived up to the hype but the semis promise to take it a notch higher with two mouthwatering clashes, writes Felix Eupal.
Tiger Head Power v Stanbic Warriors
Power coach Bernes Ankunda prayed for this fixture even before the post season. On the other hand, Warriors’ players also badly wanted to play Power at some stage in the play-offs. Match-ups between the two teams in the play-offs have always left fans on the edge of their seats, with the 2010 series standing out when Warriors clawed back from a 0-3 deficit to level the series before finally giving it away in the last seconds of the decider.
This year, the pressure is on Ankunda because Power management bought him the best players in the market prior to the start of the season. These include Abdullahi Ramathan, Philip Amenyi, Francis Odom, Moses Olobo and Ladislaus Ikungura. He was given an ultimatum to win the title or bust. Ankunda lost both regular season encounters to Warriors but that doesn’t count anymore.
Warriors have also pulled every string they can to ensure that they win the 2014 title. They have Stanbic bank on board, which bankrolled them with Shs 10m for the play-offs. Depending on how the team fares, the contract would be extended to next season.
That leaves Warriors coach Gad Eteu with no room for error. Sponsorship deals are a hard get in the Ugandan basketball so, getting one means working very hard to keep it. Power point guard Ramathan told The Observer: “This is the time to prove to Power fans that I am supposed to be here and these are the moments I was born for.”
Surely, his confidence will be tested by Warriors point guard Mark Opio, whom he will be marking. But the biggest subplot will be between Warriors centre Henry Malinga and Power forward Phillip Amenyi, arguably the two best forwards in the league. Whoever will outwit the other in the paint will have his team in the driving seat.
Power will also have to deal with the threat of Eric Malinga, who has returned after struggling with a knee injury for two seasons. Eric still possesses his field goal jumper shot and with Power often lapsing on defence, he could have a field day.
City Oilers v UCU Canons
No one ever doubted that this fixture would go down to the wire but hardly anyone anticipated it to almost turn bloody like it was about to on Wednesday night. With seven minutes left on the clock in the fourth quarter, Oilers led 50-41.
The game was stopped due to rain but just moments later, City Oil patron Mohammad Santur went to the Canons side and accused them of playing like ‘thugs’ to hurting his players. Canons head coach Nick Natuhereza retaliated and had security delayed one more minute, it would have been a different story because both teams had charged at each other.
By press time Technical committee had not yet reached a final verdict on whether disciplinary action would be taken. But at least they have confirmed that the game will be replayed from the start..
Source : The Observer