Wednesday, September 28
•JKL Lady Dolphins Vs UCU Lady Canons – 6:30pm
•Nam Blazers Vs City Oilers – 8:30pm
Namuwongo Blazers will hope to snap City Oilers streak as the Tusker-Lite sponsored NBL finals get underway with Game One at Lugogo.
The Oilers have won the National Basketball League seven times in a row, a milestone that puts them above Falcons and Power who have won six and five in that order.
Their streak started with beating Falcons in 2013 finals in their debut season in top flight, swept Power the following season, needed game seven in 2015 against UCU, strangled Power in 2016, KIU in 2017, Power in 2018 and the precedented seventh against UCU in 2019.
And the mantle is with Nam Blazers to stop the Oilers in what looks like a mission impossible.
- Also read: JKL Lady Dolphins Target 3-peat
Nam Blazers’ rise is a template of City Oilers story; They are into the finals in their first full season in NBL and have invested a lot (in terms of recruitment) to get where they are now.
Paul ‘McGyver’ Odong will be facing City Oilers for a third time in the finals, having lost the other two with Power.
“Right from before the start of the league, We had targets well defined by management and that was one of them,” Nam Blazers captain McGyver spoke to The-SportsNation about the team’s run to the final.
They topped the standings in the regular season to enter the playoffs where they swept KCCA Panthers 2-0 in the Quarters before overcoming KIU Titans 3-1 in the best of five semis.
“They (playoffs) have been quite intense especially playing teams that are a-little different in the way they play. And the personalities they have. We have had to adjust to much the nature of the teams which I guess worked thus us being in the finals,” McGyver added.
Besides the quality in depth at the club, Nam Blazers have been cheered on by an aggressive crowd mainly from home in Namuwongo.
“If I was to be straightforward, we wouldn’t be where we are without them. They are the Most Amazing fans to have taken the stands in FUBA History!”
And McGyver adds that they are not settling for a place in the finals alone: “As I mentioned, we had a list of targets set for us from the start, being in the playoffs, Topping the league, making the finals and bring the championship home. We now have one more target to meet.”
Blazers are drawing confidence from the fact that they beat City Oilers twice in the regular season and McGyver believes that “our time is now.”
“Definitely, there is an extra motivation. It feels different this time round facing off against the oilers in this final. Our time is now. We have literally walked the same path as Blazers that oilers once took.
“We are well matched side on all fronts. And we are going to play to our strengths to ensure we clinch the title.
“We have won 2 games against them in the regular season, and we did some good deeds that got us those games, so we taking one game at a time, Play our game, play as a team, and follow our coach’s leadership.”
The Blazers’ biggest hurdle in the finals will be how coach Stephen ‘Escodata’ Nyeko will rotate his squad, starting with the final 12 on the roster and how he plays them.
Only Four of their six foreigners – Chuol Nyuot, Amisi ‘Carmelo’ Saidi, Ariel Okall, Ken Wachira, Chris Omanye and David ‘Dikong’ Deng – must make the final 12 to play each match.
The first three slots have in the past been given to the three big men – Dikong, Carmelo and Okall while Chuol has not been given any time mainly because he is still young and will have his time surely in the future.
The tussle has been between Wachira and Omanye, with the Kenyan Shooting guard getting the nod earlier because of his shooting prowess.
Congolese Point Guard Omanye was a difficult pick initially because of the availability of players who can point the ball starting with Daniel ‘Najja’ Juuko, Collins Kasujja and Richard Ongom.
But Omanye was given a chance after the local contingent failed to impress against KIU, and he carried them past the semis. Whether he is retained ahead of Wachira, remains a big question.
Without doubt, Carmelo was the Blazers best player in regular season but has been silent in the playoffs and he is one man they will need the most if they are to have a chance against the Oilers.
The Invincible City Oilers
City Oilers have the quality, organisation, a better coach and experience to go all the way.
Captain James Okello and Jimmy Enabu for starters have been part of the the seven title winning squads while Ben Komakech and Tonny Drilleba have won a couple with the club as well.
Drilleba limped out of Game four with UCU Canons and it remains to be seen if he will be available while Ivan Lumanyika is definitely out having missed the quarters and semis as well.
The big news is the addition of Abdihakim Ghedi, son to Team Manager Hajji Santur Muhammad, who will be making his debut.
He was registered on time and was included in the playoffs roster despite not being available in the country at the time.
And with four big men – Ghedi, Maker Moses, James Okello and Francis Azolibe – Juruni will feel that he has the needed depth to go an extra mile.
The series look evenly matched, and the ball is in Nam Blazers’ hands to stop the ‘dictator’ from extending their legacy.