Friday, September 2
•UCU Canons Vs JKL Dolphins – 7pm
•City Oilers Vs UPDF Tomahawks – 9pm
(Game 1s, Quarterfinals)
UCU Canons will be hoping for a perfect start when they face JKL Dolphins in game one of the Tusker-Lite sponsored NBL Playoffs at Lugogo.
The Canons coach Nicholas Natuhereza said that they are focusing on one game at a time as they target to thread another run to the finals.
UCU finished the regular season in second place with a 19-5 record just like Nam Blazers (1) and City Oilers (3).
They are strong favourites to win this series against a Dolphins side that came seventh with a 11-13 record (11 wins and 13 losses).
This serie was supposed to start last week but postponed as the Canons had Titus Lual on the National team (Silverbacks) that featured at the World Cup Qualifiers in Abidjan.
On the team’s readiness, Natuhereza told The-SportsNation: “Prepare for the challenge that is JKL. Its always tough against them.”
He added that they have no injury in the camp, and have more players available than the game day roster allows (12).
UCU and JKL is a derby of sorts as both teams hail from Mukono. In fact, a couple of JKL players have in the past had their trained at UCU courts.
But the Canons have taken the lion’s share in this fixture, including beating JKL twice this season as it was the case in 2019.
They won 64-56 in the first round before winning the second round tie 59-46 at Lugogo.
“Regular season is gone,” Natuhereza added. “It’s a new season, we have to quickly forget regular season accolades.”
But the Canons must be aware of the threat JKL pose; a team that has Mabor Makol who is leading the division in most rebounds (295) and only Innocent Ochera (383) has scored more points than his 347 tally.
In addition, Maluel Dier (343) is fourth on that scoring charts leaderboard while Veterans Brian Namake and Jude Ochen will add experience, in case they are available for this series.
“We know them and the challenge they bring. We are prepared and will be ready for game one.”
The Canons look the real deal though, with three players averaging double figures in scoring – Peter Sifuma, Fayed Bbaale and Jerry Kayanga.
And in Titus Lual and Fadhil Chuma, the Canons have some of the elite bigs in the league.
The experienced Sudi Ulanga has been in this position a couple of times and will hope to guide this young team all the way while Ibanda Lwabaga is the other player who has looked impressive in the regular season.
The Canons were denied their first title by City Oilers in game 7 in 2019 the last time the league was played to completion, as it was the case in 2015, and if they go past JKL, they are likely to meet the Oilers at the semis.
City Oilers face UPDF in the other best of three Quarterfinal.
Natuhereza commented about the possible pairing: “I am not worried about Oilers or last season’s events right now. Game 1 of the quarter finals against JKL is the only thing I am looking forward to.”