Game 1 – Friday, November 29 at 7:30pm
Game 2 – Sunday, December 1 at 5:30pm
Game 3 – Wednesday, December 4 at 8:30pm
Game 4 – Friday, December 6 at 7:30pm
Game 5 – Sunday, December 8 at 5:30pm (If necessary)
Game 6 – Wednesday, December 11 at 8:30pm (If necessary)
Game 7 – Friday, December 13 at 8:30pm (If necessary)
It was a four year wait for the Falcons’ fans. The most historic club in local basketball finally arrived at last year’s finals after a three season departure. They looked promising after winning the opening game 75-62 against Warriors (a team they beat to get to this year’s finals) but won once in the next five games and lost the series 2-4.
Falcons’ coach Gad Eteu still recalls they lost last year’s series off the court. “We lost last year’s finals off the court. What you do off the court (during practice) transforms on court (during the game)” he says.
After losing the 2012 finals, Falcons did not have the best start to this season and made to playoffs as the seventh seed. They beat one of the best rosters UCU Canons have ever assembled (2-1) in the first round and won three successive games after dropping the opener to beat Warriors (3-1) to make the finals for a second year in a row and have another shot at the championship that eluded them last year. “We learnt a lot from last year, we can’t repeat the same mistakes and we will take a game at a time” Falcons’ Steven Omony says.
You may argue that Falcons have got a lot of experience and gone through the tougher bracket but the fact is both Falcons and City Oilers have been physically rugged, emotionally experienced and mentally resilient at nearly the same level to get here. Now, confronting each other in the finals, their enormous mutual respect is overridden by the knowledge that the team most ruthlessly focused on the task at hand is likely to be the victor in these series. When that jump ball goes into the air, none of those differences matters. The winner of this seven-game series will be the better team.
“We are as physical and good as them so that won’t be a problem” Oilers coach, Mandy Juruni said after the last pre-game 1 practice.
HOW WILL CITY OILERS TURN OUT?
Will the Oilers run? Of course they will! They have Jimmy Enabu, one of the fastest players in the league and quick to attack the hoop if he decides to. The Oilers do not necessarily turnover their opponents and get into the transition game leading to many easy baskets but sure they will need that from their guards and if Jimmy and company don’t run they have the option of going into Arou Ramadhani in the low post and Kami Kabange for his signature mid-range jumper but that won’t be as easy as it was against Power considering Falcons’ presence down.
The Oilers try to shrink the court and make it tough to get driving lanes to the hoop. Their team defense makes it tough to get the looks you want and Kami Kabange and Arou Ramadhani can dominate the paint. With help from the young effective defender in Samuel Kalwanyi off the bench and the occasional clutch 3-point knockdowns from Daniel Jukko, Yusuf Muhamed and Ronnie Kalule, City Oilers may give Falcons’ experienced roster a lot to think about.
HOW WILL FALCONS TURN OUT?
Steven Omony can be too dominant a player on any given night for any team to stop or even contain. He can take you home on a drive or a random pull up jumper and if he turns on that button, James Okello, Ronnie Kalulue, and Nzinza Rurangirwa will have a lot to do. Serge Kabangu and Philip Ameny’s presence and ability to pass may swing things in Falcons’ favour but this time with a little more effort as they will be split unlike against Warriors when they would at times double team.
“We respect him (Omony) as a good player but it is about team defense. He will have to beat 5 players” Juruni said on stopping the veteran. Jimmy Enabu backs his coach. “We will keep playing as a team like we prepared and i think we are a good defensive team” he told Kawowo Sports.
Creating miss-matches and trying to stop City Oilers go-to players is not far from optional for Falcons. “We want to do deliberate things on both defense and offense. We always want to create miss-matches” Eteu said. “They (Jimmy & Kami) may get the points because they are good players but we want to limit them”
HOW THE TEAMS GOT HERE:
Got to the playoffs as the fifth seed with a 15-7 record in the regular season. They swept KIU Titans 2-0 in the first round and came from one down to beat Dmark Power 3-1 in the semi finals.
Got to the playoffs as the seventh seed with a 13-9 record in the regular season. They overcame UCU Canons 2-1 in the first round and came from one-down to beat Riham Warriors 3-1 in the semi finals
City Oilers and Falcons shared the regular season series 1-1. Oilers won the first leg 75-65 and Falcons took the second 83-80
Looking at the variables – the fans, coaching staff, players and of course the refs – it’s interesting to speculate on who might walk away with the championship but not for me as i got knocked off by Oilers in the semi finals and i don’t want to develop my gambling habits yet! What are your predictions?