Game 1: Friday, November 21 at 8:00pm, YMCA
Game 2: Sunday, November 23 at 5:30pm, Lugogo
Game 3: Wednesday, November 26 at 8:00pm, Lugogo
Game 4: Friday, November 28 at 8:00pm, Lugogo (If necessary)
Game 5: Sunday, November 30 at 5:30pm, Lugogo (If necessary)
Had the road to the Pepsi FUBA Playoffs first round turned into anything other than a mental and physical tune up for Tiger Head Power and Stanbic Warriors heading into the second round, probably it would have been a shock of this year’s post season.
Because there were no surprises, Stanbic Warriors and Tiger Head Power will for the first time since 2011 face off in a playoffs series. Now that the school boys have been dismissed, we can prepare for an intriguing second round match up for the league’s proven stars.
At the start of the season, Warriors were bleeding and I said they would be fine. Of course they should be fine – Stanbic Bank cashed in. The now Stanbic Warriors turned around their fortunes in the second losing a single game and the reward is playing their all time rivals, Tiger Head Power (who finished third seed) in the second round of the Pepsi FUBA playoffs. Well, that is not necessarily a good reward but they will have to take it anyway.
Power had their struggles in the first half of the season especially with the point, they brought in Ladislus Ikungura mid-season to back up the Dullah and he has played the role quite well. Power looks complete and good to go having sorted their point. May be only egos could stand in their way but Ikong dismissed that notion.
Now, confronting each other in the post season for the first time since the 2011 Playoffs Finals, the enormous mutual respect between Power and Warriors 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 in which they look evenly matched in terms of personnel.
So what could be the X-Factors?
Here is one for each;
For Power, it’s Paul Mwaka. It’s a very small sample size but the only player (outside of the ring) for Power who seems to be capable of disrupting what Warriors do is Mwaka. His ugly foul shot a side, the reason Mwaka can be so effective is he’s capable of forcing turnovers and usually turns them into baskets because of his efficiency near the basket. He might get into the teeth of Warrior’s defense which will make them feel a little discomfort and that could go a long way for key stretches in games. The role player will always step up to give Power that complimentary production on any night.
For Warriors, it has got to be Ronald Ssali. Nobody on that Warriors team serves their purpose when called on as Ssali. He always gets the work done when called off the bench. He may not be as productive offensively but he controls the tempo of the game when brought on but you can’t overlook his defense.
The last playoffs series between these sides went to the limits and this best-of-five series might as well just go all the way. Looking for a chance to play for the championship for the first time since 2011 (Power) and 2012 (Warriors) it should be an exciting series from start to finish especially that the two teams don’t seem to have much admiration for each other. These two teams don’t like each other and they proved it over the years and that will be a recipe for entertainment.
Why Warriors might win
Warriors just know how to go about man-to-man defenses which coincidentally is Power’s preferred form of defending. Warriors seem to score freely against man-to-man defenses and some of these game games might come down to who scorers more rather than who defends better.
Secondly, Ronnie Kasewu may start scoring. This will give Warriors’ a different offensive look. While Steven Okiasi is the go to man and Mark Opio is occasionally banging in the points and Henry Malinga contributing as well, once Kasewu brings the numbers Warriors might overwhelm Power.
Why Power might win
Since the start of the second round Ikong is not just playing better, he is scoring. He may not take on the game alone but he is making important points, making big baskets.
If Dulla can harness the scoring potential of Power’s bigs especially Philip Ameny, it could go a long way in lifting the team. That coupled with Blick’s long distance shooting (if on point), Power could dump Warriors.