2019 in Review: Ulinzi topple KPA but Kenyan clubs flop abroad
The Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF) enjoyed a dramatic year full of interesting twists and while the domestic premier leagues were a success, local teams flopped regionally in the Africa Zone Five.
Perhaps one of the standout events of the season was the fall of Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) who saw their three-year grip of the men’s Premier League title brought to an end by arch-rivals Ulinzi Warriors.
After KPA had been knocked out in the semi-final by Ulinzi, it left the challengers as the overwhelming favourites to clinch the crown and despite going 1-0 down against Thunder in Game One, they recovered to win 3-1.
It marked Ulinzi’s ninth KBF title and secured them a ticket to represent Kenya in the second edition of the Basketball of Africa League (BAL) next year.
Ulinzi sailed into the playoff final after defeating the then defending champions KPA 77-70 in Game four of the semi final playoffs at the Nyayo Gymnasium.
The Soldiers had won game one and two 82-69 and 85-74 respectively and lost game two 92-69 to the Dockers.
Thunder qualified for finals for the first time under head coach Sadat Gaya in five years after striking down EMYBA. It was also the first time Thunder was playing in the final since 2000 when they bagged the crown.
Against EMYBA in the semis, Thunder won Game Two, Three and Four 80-71, 77-68 and 74-72 respectively and lost 83-80 in Game One.
At the end of the league, Ulinzi’s Point and shooting guard Victor Bosire bagged the Kenya Basketball League Men Most Valuable Player award after his starring role helped the Warriors bag the 2019 league title while fellow teammate Eric Mutoro bagged the top scorer player award.
In regular league, Ulinzi almost finished the league unbeaten but the only loss came in the hands of Thunder.
Ulinzi topped the regular with 43 points, two points ahead of Thunder while Equity Bank finished third with 39 points as KPA finished fourth with 38 points.
Women basketball league
In women league Equity Bank were crowned the champions after hammering KPA 61-51 to seal their final playoffs series 3-2.
Equity, who were the defending champions, won Game One 63-59 and lost Game Two 56-50 in Mombasa. In Nairobi Games, the Hawks won Game Three 54-51 while the Dockers won Game Four 69-53. The Bankers pulled off an impressive rally to take Game Four 61-51 to be declared champions.
Both teams will represent the country in next year’s Africa Zone Five Championship after doing so in 2016,2017 ,2018 and 2019 with KPA winning the 2016 and 2017 Zone Five Championship as Equity triumphed 2018 but both failed to clinch the 2019.
KPA reached the women’s playoff final after defeating Storms 58-45 in Game Three of their semis clash at the Makande Gymnasium in Mombasa. This came after 81-61 and 82-52 wins in Game One and Two respectively in Nairobi.
On their side, Equity Bank thrashed UON Dynamites 3-0 in the semis series winning Game One, Two and Three 60-32, 76-38, 65-38 respectively at the Nyayo in Nairobi.
In regular league Equity almost finished the league unbeaten but KPA broke their unbeaten record hence finishing the league with 43 points while KPA finished second with 42 points having lost two games against Equity and Storms.
Strathmore and UON Dynamite finished third and fourth with 37 points each.
During the awards after the final game of the playoffs KPA’s Shooting Guard Hilda Indasi bagged the Top Scorer award in the Playoffs. The 34-year- old former Kaimosi Girls High School alumnus was in the thick of action with dominant performance helping the Dockers clinch a runner-up place in the tightly contested league.
Elsewhere, after her starring role helped Equity Bank bag the 2019 league title, another shooting guard Annerose Mandela was awarded the Most Valuable Player in the playoffs.
Mandela was the star-act in the playoffs and her heroics did not go unrewarded as she bagged the award.
Africa Zone Five
Kenya’s dominance in the Africa Women Zone Five Basketball Championship came to a screeching halt after they failed to retain their title in this year’s event.
The title had changed hands between Kenyan clubs in the last three years with Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) triumphing in 2016 and 2017, while Equity Bank Hawks dethroned them 2018.
With these impressive stats, many expected the title to return home yet again but it was not to be as the curtains came down on the one-week event on Saturday in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Equity came out a disappointing fourth after losing to JKL of Uganda in the semis. It did not get any better of the bankers from Kenya as they lost to APR of Rwanda in the third- place playoffs.
At the group stage, Equity had dispatched the Rwandan side but could not replicate the magic when it was most needed.
KPA on the other hand earned a ticket as one of the two teams which represented Zone Five at the Africa Women Championship which was held in Madagascar by virtue of their runners-up slot in the regional tourney behind newly crowned champions JKL but they failed to go and play to what was considered as financial issues and budget.
Basketball Africa League Qualifiers.
After abolishment of Africa Zone Five Championship for Men, the Basketball Africa League (B.A.L) was created and which will take place next year in Rwanda. Before the league kicks off league winners from different countries played in qualifying matches; Round One and Round Two qualifiers.
Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) advanced to the second round of the (B.A.L) qualifiers after topping group C in the Round One qualifiers that was held in Madagascar.
This came after the Kenyans defeated all their opponents. The Mombasa based club hammered Usoni BC of Comoros 121-74 in their last match. They had defeated hosts Gendarmerie Nationale Basketball Club (GNBC) 98-84, Beau Vallon Heat Basketball Club of Seychelles 131-54, and Cobra Sport Club of South Sudan 81-78 on.
In the second Round of B.A.L qualifiers that was held in Rwanda, KPA failed to reach the semi-finals where they had a chance of qualifying for the BAL next year. This after the Dockers failed to reach at the championship on time and giving a walkover against City Oilers of Uganda. If City Oilers would have rescheduled the match, KPA would have qualified for the semis.
KPA won against Ferroviaro of Mozambique 79-67 and 83-53 against Cobra Sports of South Sudan.
Ferroviaro which KPA had hammered ended up qualifying for the BAL next year alongside Patriots of Rwanda who emerged winners and CNBC who finished first runners up
Africa Women Championship
After finishing second in the Africa Zone Five Championship in Tanzania, KPA were to represent the Zone Five in the FIBA Africa Women Championship in Maputo, Mozambique but failed to take part in the championship to what was termed as financial difficulties due to their budget.
In 2018 KPA finishing seventh while Equity finished ninth.