Egyptian side Zamalek on Sunday became the first-ever champions of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) after beating US Monastir 76-63 at Kigali Arena.
It was, however, the Tunisians that started strong leading by as many as 10 points in the first quarter, and 11 points early in the second.
Michael Fakuade’s jumphook with about seven minutes on the clock sparked an 11-4 run for Zamalek forcing US Monastir into a timeout. On return, Souleyman Diabate drove in for a lay-up and Anas Mahmoud tied the game at 34 with a jumper.
It was a seesaw the rest of the quarter but Zamalek edged ahead 44-42 on Walter Hodge’s lay-up, and Monastir trailed for the first time at the half in the competition.
Zamalek kept their noses in front through the third quarter and opened a twelve-point cushion midway the fourth quarter on
“I take full responsibility for this loss, and I want to apologize to our fans back home,” said US Monastir head coach Mounir Ben Slimen. “Zamalek was the better team and deserved the title,” he admitted.
Mohab Yasser Abdallatif, the youngest player at the tournament, exemplified Zamalek’s tenacity, on both ends of the floor. The 18-year-old finished with 14 points on a 6-for-8 shooting.
Zamalek’s remarkable win was sparked by their contributions off the bench with Souleyman Diabate (14 points), Michael Fakuade (15 points), and Chinemelu Elonu (11 points) combining for 40 points.
Tournament MVP Hodge scored 12 points.
Makrem Ben Romdhane scored 14 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead US Monastir, Marcus Crawford contributed 14 points while Lebanese star Wael Arakji tallied 13 points, 11 of which came in the first half.