Thunder and Strathmore University’s Blades enhanced their chances of qualifying for the Kenya Basketball Federation men’s Premier League play-offs final after registering convincing wins in their respective semi-final Game Two matches at the Nyayo Stadium Indoor Gymnasium over the weekend.
Thunder stretched their lead in the best-of-five series semi-final to 2-0 after they demolished Ulinzi Warriors 70-57 in Game Two on Sunday. Thunder, who were eliminated 0-2 by Ulinzi Warriors in last year’s play-offs quarter-finals, were determined to avenge the defeat from the onset beating shaky Ulinzi 80-70 in Game One on Saturday.
Sadat Gaya’s charges now need to win Game Three to reach their first ever play-offs final on a 3-0 basis.
On Sunday, Thunder raced to a 20-14 lead at end of first quarter before moving further ahead 38-25 at the breather. Kevin Chogo scored 17, ever-green guard Griffins Ligare 14, Faheem Juma 16 while Jackton Angunda shot 12 as Thunder won Game Two 70-57.
Ulinzi Warriors, who last won the league in 2015, face a tall order of winning Game Three and Four to lock the series 2-2 and force Game Five to decide who qualifies for this year’s play-off final. Ulinzi Warriors risk failing to reach the final for the second consecutive year after KPA dismissed them 3-0 in the 2017 semis.
On Sunday, Blades put up spirited fight to rock Kenya Ports Authority 69-56 in Game Two to lock the semi-final series 1-1. The students had lost 54-64 to KPA in Game One on Saturday.
Blades, who were beaten 1-3 by KPA in last year’s play-offs final, will play the remaining three matches away at KPA’s Makande Gymnasium in Mombasa this weekend.
Blades coach Tony Ochieng’ is confident his charges can replicate their home performances on the road.
“My instruction to the six guards to score over six points worked well after missing two top forwards. KPA will be under pressure at home and we intend to capitalise on that to beat them and qualify for the final ,’’said Ochieng'.
KPA assistant coach Mike Opel insists the semi-final is theirs to lose despite slipping in Game Two.
“We had played well in Game One but the team failed to click to win Game Two. We still have a big advantage of playing three matches at home to book a ticket to the final,’’ said Opel.
Last year, KPA won Game One and Two in Nairobi but Blades squeezed a narrow 65-64 win in Game Three in Mombasa. However KPA won Game Four 61-53 to be declared champions on a 3-1 basis.
In the women’s Premier League, Strathmore University’s Swords overcame stiff opposition from Zetech University to sail into the semi-finals on a 2-1 basis. Swords unlocked a 1-1 tie on Sunday after they rallied from behind to beat Zetech 53-47 in the decisive Game Three to advance.
Swords had won Game One 52-50 but Zetech recovered to win Game Two 52-45 on Saturday to force the decisive Game Three.
Swords coach Ronnie Owino was proud of his young side despite the numerical disadvantage.
“It was a tough match and qualifying for the semi-final is an achievement for this young team which had only nine players available for selection,’’ said Owino.
Swords will meet Equity Bank in the semi-finals while champions Kenya Ports Authority will take on Storms.
Emyba made bright their chances of qualifying for men’s Division One League play-offs final after taking a 2-0 lead against Terrorists. Emyba won Game Two 84-59 on Sunday.
Riara University locked their men’s Division Two play-off series 1-1 after beating Kenya Airports Authority 77-61 in Game Two. Blazers also went up 2-0 after battling from behind 18-20 at the break to defeat Little Prince 45-40 in Game Two. Both finalists will be promoted to the men’s Division One League next year.
University of Nairobi’s Dynamites overcame Strathmore University 42-28 in their women’s Division Two play-offs semi-finals.
Men: Thunder 70 Ulinzi Warriors 57, Blades 69 KPA 56, Riara University 77 Kenya Airports Authority 61, Emyba 84 Terrorists 59, Blazers 45 Little Prince 40, Thunder 80 Ulinzi Warriors 70, KPA 64 Blades 54, Blazers 60 Little Prince 41.
Women: Strathmore University’s Swords 53 Zetech University 47, Dynamites 42 Strathmore University 28, Zetech University 52 Strathmore University 45.