Since their last success under Timothy Odeke, KCCA Leopards have played second fiddle to UCU Lady Canons and JKL Lady Dolphins.
The last time the side won the championship was in 2014 and the main force behind that title run was Claire Lamunu. The power forward was unplayable before she left for the United States.
Lamunu is back and the four-time National Basketball League champions look like a side that can challenge again. On Saturday, the Leopards had the first opportunity to show if they are ready to challenge again, and they sure did.
KCCA Leopards, despite starting slow, defeated JKL Dolphins 58-55. The game was scrappy to start with both teams missing their first three shots but it Dolphins that got out of the slump winning the opening quarter 15-5.
Brenda Ekon and Flavia Oketcho stretched JKL’s lead to 14 points early in the second quarter but Leopards slowly but surely chipped away through a team effort with skipper Joy Chemtai, Cynthia Irankunda, Leticia Awor, Susan Aanyu, Alicia Wasagali and Lamunu contributing.
Leopards kept Dolphins at arm’s length and Lamunu tied the game at 36 with under four minutes to play in the fourth in the third quarter and Leopards took the lead for the first time on Ruth Atuheire’s lay-up.
JKL erased KCCA’s two-point lead with a 6-0 run to start the fourth quarter but Lamunu hit a 3-pointer to pull Leopards back.
Awor put Leopards in the lead with a 3-pointer but Oketcho answered in equal measure. The sides marched shot-for-shot until the final minute when Irankunda’s free throws created a 3-point separation before Aanyu’s huge defensive play on Muhayimina Namuwaya.
Awor led Leopards with 16 points, Lamunu added 13 points and to go with 8 boards while Aanyu pulled down team high 9 rebounds.
Hope Akello scored an efficient game-high 18 points to go with 10 rebounds in a losing effort. Oketcho and Ekone contributed 11 points each.
The two sides return to action in two weeks time with JKL Lady Dolphins taking on Nkumba Marines on Saturday, May 1 while KCCA Leopards will play school side Nabisunsa on Sunday, May 2.