Sunday, September 11 (YMCA)
•UCU Lady Canons 62-42 KIU Rangers (1-0)
•KCCA Leopards 52-65 JKL Lady Dolphins (0-2)
•UCU Canons 64-72 City Oilers (0-1)
•KIU Titans 75-64 Nam Blazers (1-1)
City Oilers have taken the first game in their Tusker-Lite sponsored NBL semifinal playoff series against UCU Canons on Sunday evening at YMCA court in Wandegeya.
The seven-time champions won 72-64 in an entertaining tie which is a repeat of the previous season’s (2019) final.
James Okello top scored for the Oilers with 15 points before the big man fouled out in the closing stages.
Caesar Kizito was the other Oilers player to score in double figures, doing so off the bench, in an encouraging display for the former Sharing Youth star.
The Canons on the other hand, got 19 points and 15 rebounds from Titus Lual while Fayed Baale was at his craftiest with 18 points and dishing out three assists.
Lwabaga Ibanda brought 10 points and 7 assists on board, but his effort, just like the rest, proved not enough and Canons will be well aware that they will need to do much better if they are to become the first ever team to stop Oilers in a Playoffs series.
Ibanda’s 10 points came in the second half of the game which they outscored the Oilers 40-37, but damage was done in the first half already including a second quarter they lost 20-10.
Oilers, as it has been in the past had ball movement and patience as the hallmark of their success once again.
Two of their best players in Jimmy Enabu and Tonny Drilleba struggled for extended stretches when the Canons turned on the heat, but the latter brought swag down the stretch when he crossed over Lual to leave the lanky centre crawling on the YMCA court before picking Ben Komakech who sunk in a jumper for the last nail in Canons coffin.
The Canons were made to play catch up right from the opening exchanges, but when Lwabaga floater in midway through the third quarter to tie 39-39, the area was buzzing with optimist.
But Oilers responded with another good run to pull away. Moses Mer Maker, the South Sudanese import failed to impact the game as he might have wanted, but managed to score 7 points to make up for his awful rebounding which saw him pick one throughout his 12 minutes on court.
The Canons out-rebounded Oilers 51-46 but all that effort was washed away with the 20 turnovers they committed.
Their biggest undoing came in the form of Jerry Kayanga who failed to show up – shooting 0-for-5 from three and UCU will need his hot hand to spark if they are to have a chance.
Coach Nicholas Natuhereza will feel there is certainly a lot of fight left in his boys who will hope to level the series when the two sides meet for game two Wednesday.