Kampala. City Oilers blew a 19-point lead before holding off a courageous UCU Canons to take 1-0 lead in the seven-game Pepsi Fuba League playoff finals with an 89-85 victory on Friday.
The Lugogo MTN Arena could have emptied at halftime when the two-time defending champions took a 52-33 lead.
Oilers’ sixth successive victory over UCU was turning into an ugly procession. Memories of last year’s 4-0 rout of Tiger Head Power were hovering over the place. UCU, playing their first finals, seemed to suffer from either stage fright or fatigue or both, their five-game semifinal series against KIU Titans having only finished on Wednesday.
From a state of anesthesia, they delivered a monstrous third period only to fall short of delivering the knockout blow. Led by centre Desmond Owili’s game-high 21, six rebounds and three assists, and forwardguard Brian Namake’s 21, five and four, UCU took that quarter 31-13.
Namake, the de facto leader, was perfect on the charity converting all his nine attempts.
It’s that kind of resilience that should force many to return to the same venue this evening for Game Two.
That will make it three games in six days for UCU. Friday was Oilers’ first game in a week having brushed aside Tiger Head Power 3-1.
“Yeah, that’s tough,” UCU coach Nicholas Natuhereza said.
The emperor was being stripped by an apprentice. Playing stun defence, UCU kept Kami Kabange to 13, Landry Ndikumana, Samuel Kalwanyi and Jimmy Enabu to 12 apiece.
You could argue that Kalwanyi impact off the bench that included nine rebounds was a huge building block. But, there is no doubt that the match winner was Geoff Omondi.
The ex-Canon scored 19 on a 5 for 7 shooting beyond the arc to keep UCU at bay. “He is really shooting the ball well,” his coach Mandy Juruni said.
In the semifinals, Omondi shot a defiant 7 of 9 from downtown for 23 points in a 90-88 Game Two overtime loss to Power. He is firmly the x-factor now.
It’s something Natuhereza can hope to find in Steven Wundi whose 12 points came off 3 for 8 shooting in 32 minutes as centre Ivan Lumanyika struggled with foul trouble for a second successive postseason game.
GAME ONE (MEN)
City Oilers 89-85 UCU
(Oilers lead 1-0)
TODAY AT LUGOGO
UCU vs Oilers, 8pm
THIRD PLACE PLAYOFF
KIU vs Power, 6pm
KIU vs A1, 4pm
SOURCE: DAILY MONITOR