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NBL semi-final play-offs tonight

The national basketball league semi-final play-offs begin this evening in Lugogo.

And although the only women’s semi-final between A1-Challenge and KCCA Leopards is expected to be lopsided, it will be scintillating in the men’s category.

Last season’s finalists City Oilers and Power meet at one court, as Warriors face KIU Titans on another in contests that will be decided on a best-of-five-series. It will be intriguing to see who ultimately makes the final.

Real battle for the ball: Ferdinand Odama of JKL Dolphins is sandwiched by Warriors players, Stanley Mugerwa (left) and Caesar Kizito

Power beat Oilers in both regular season fixtures, meaning that they go into the semi-final with the psychological edge. Power captain Joseph Ikong said after they defeated Ndejje University Angels 2-0 in the quarter-final playoffs last Sunday, that they were confident ahead of the tie.

But some analysts think that Power simply rode on the adrenaline, that pumps up challengers in most cases against top sides.

Power played like a team possessed, hungry for success, which Mandy Juruni, the Oilers coach admitted: “They played with heart and wanted to win it more than us then.”

Yet, Juruni quickly added that they have learnt a lot from those two situations, beyond the complacency, that could have crept in, because of the 16 times they had beaten Power before.

Juruni said that this being the play-offs, they have to be more serious and realize that every possession matters. He emphasized the need to defend better.

Since Oilers lost Kami Kabange at the end of last season, it is not only their offence that has suffered. But their defence too. Kabange was efficient on both ends. He was a leader and an inspiration, aspects Landry Ndikumana, Joseph Chuma, Brian Ssentongo and James Okello ought to step up on it they are to make a difference.

That difference will begin with stopping the threat of Power’s Michael Makiadi, Ikong and Michael Kojo. But also making sure they do not fall prey to Power’s running game, a tactic they use so well, to outwit opponents.

It also goes without saying that Oilers captain Jimmy Enabu has not been in the best of form this season. And isn’t it about time, that changed? Probably.

Meanwhile, KIU will be hoping that good fortune comes their way this time if they are to make the final for the first time.

KIU, who knocked out UCU Canons 2-0 in the best-of-three-series quarter-finals on Sunday, are well rested compared to their counterparts, Warriors. On Wednesday evening, Warriors battled past a determined JKL Dolphins, to win game three 79-64.

And with history showing that in the regular season, both teams picked one win over the other, their semi-final is expected to be close too. KIU’s trio of guards, Michael Bwanga, Chris Basheke and Sudi Ulanga will be a match for Warriors’ Syrus Kiviri, Michael Buzangu and Mark Opio. JKL showed that Warriors can be slack in defending, seeing that they conceded 136 points in two games.

The biggest difference, however, will be the match-ups in the post play. KIU do not have an imposing individual in the paint like Warriors’ Phillip Ameny, unless Geoffrey Soro makes a turn around on his application. Otherwise, the series could be dead on onset for KIU.  

jovi@observer.ug

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