On Friday, September 21, City Oilers beat KIU Titans 86-73 in Game 4 of the National Basketball League Playoff semifinals at Lugogo Indoor Stadium.
The victory for Oilers earned them a place in the finals for a sixth year running having won the best-of- five series 3-1.
However, City Oilers’ start to the series was appalling. The side was blown out of the Arena by determined Titans 83-61. Then, it was Oilers’ third defeat to KIU in as many meetings of the season.
The enduring image from Game 1 was not how good KIU Titans were, but how terrible the five-time champions looked on the floor.
Oilers were out played in every sense that even luck was driven out. While most of what Titans threw up especially from three-point range found the basket, Oilers needed GPS to located the basket – going 19-for-68 from the field.
The frustration was profound and resignation on the game was intrinsic. No surprise Mandy Juruni withdrew his star players at some point already looking at Game 2.
To some, the series were a fore gone conclusion as they saw no come back from the side that has won the last five league titles with a lot of ease, save for 2013 (against Falcons) and 2015 (against UCU Canons) when they were dragged up to Game 7.
And the start to Game 2 suggested Oilers were, for the second time in their short NBL history, to go down 2-0 in a series. The side trailed Titans by 13 points after the opening quarter and 16 points at halftime.
However, after the long break, City Oilers started to show glimpses of what they can do as a team on the defensive end of the court. There offense was never in doubt; Jimmy Enabu, Stephen Omony and Landry Ndukumana are proven scorers along with James Okello who has come of age.
“We were in trouble and were being embarrassed. So we had to play better and we play better when in trouble,” Juruni says.
“Our defense on the guards was lacking and KIU is predominantly guards’ game, so our guards had to compete,” he adds.
The second half of Game 2 set the tone for City Oilers the rest of the series, winning the next two games by completely taking away the KIU Titans perimeter game.
“We have managed these games and series because we have been champions for 5 years. We have experienced all scenarios,” Juruni boasted of his team’s experience. “Collectively as a team we showed up the last two games, especially the Game 4 where I thought our bench did a fantastic job. We were in foul trouble and Jonah Egau stepped up big.”
While Oilers have three big men in Ndikumana, Okello and Brian Muramba, KIU Titans found no solution for Okello and Ndikumana as well as Stephen Omony when he played as a stretch four.
Ethienne Kazungu, Oscar Muge and Joseph Chuma could only trouble City Oilers for one game.
“Overall the series were tough especially the way we started. We were playing a team that was so determined to beat us, a team that believed could beat us, a team that had beaten us two games in the regular season. But players all stepped up and did their job well. We have options in the paint and out. We used our strength.”
City Oilers will play Power in the best-of-seven finals with both sides looking for the sixth championship.