KIU Titans win over Power on the opening weekend of the 2020 National Basketball League season made many believe that the Kansanga-based side near the top. Well, they are not! And that’s not based on the fact that a team they blew out has now gone four without victory but rather their second game of the season.
After going two weekends without stepping on court, Titans were back on the floor on Sunday evening with swagger, at least during the warmup. Kenyan international Ariel Okall whose signing had been confirmed a day earlier laced up and was joined by usual suspects Faisal Aden, Michael Bwanga, and Denis Balungu who many perceive to be the stars of the team.
While Okall waited on the bench, Aden, Bwanga and Balungu were joined by Joseph Dramaza and Stanley Mugerwa to complete the starting unit for the game.
Mugerwa won the jump ball over a slightly taller Christian Milambu but it was JKL Dolphins shooting guard Innocent Ochera who rushed to collect the ball off the tip. The first possession was so significant not because it determined the outcome of the game but it showed Dolphins were going to compete for everything throughout the forty minutes, and so they did.
After missing the shot off the first possession of the game, Dolphins pressured Faisal Aden into a turnover. Though Yesman Bushiri missed the shot off the turnover, the tone was set on the defensive end.
“We knew coming into this game that it was going to be tough but we just wanted to compete, to play defense,” Dolphins skipper Jude Ochen said in the aftermath.
Aden sliced through JKL’s defense with his sluggish but effective crossovers and finished off with a floating jumper to open the scoring of a largely scrappy first quarter that Dolphins edged 13-11 with a lot having to do with the work they did at the defensive end of the court. The Dolphins forced Titans into eight turnovers in the quarter with five coming off Aden whose individualism played right into the hands of Dolphins.
Peter Obleng opened the second quarter with a flash to spark Titans to 24-point in the period and a nine-point lead at the halftime break.
From the start of the third quarter, it was all JKL Dolphins on both ends of the floor as KIU Titans pressed the self-destruct button.
Titans barely stringed together more than four passes on a possession, and it goes without saying Okall never got any ball in the post neither did Balungu in the corner while wide open.
Frustration creeped in and ran through the whole team as Dolphins erased the 11-point deficit in the final four minutes of the quarter and took a 3-point lead to the break with a 14-0 run.
“It was a very humbling experience to lose to JKL. I think they outplayed us when they went to that 14-0 run in the third quarter and from there they didn’t look back so it was a very humbling experience,” a crestfallen Brian Wathum, the KIU Titans head coach, said.
Libe Makala who scored game-high 19 points led the charge on both ends of the court for Dolphins. Ivan Lumanyika despite turning over the ball eight times, five coming off travels, was locked in on the defensive end and protected the rim well, swatting away three shots. The center scored 10 points and pulled down 7 rebounds.
Brian Namake scored 12 points and did an excellent job at guarding Aden