Co-operative Bank teams made flying starts in their opening men and women’s Premier League play-offs quarter-final matches at Strathmore University, Madaraka over the weekend.
On Sunday, Co-op Bank men opened their campaign to recapture the Premier League title they last won four year’s go with a 57-41 Game One victory over newcomers Umoja.
Earlier, Co-op Bank women, who lost 0-3 to Kenya Ports Authority in last year’s play-offs semi-final, had set the ball rolling by narrowly beating stubborn newcomers Zetech University 44-43.
Co-op Bank men and women are now one match up 1-0 up in the best-of-three series quarter-finals and could wrap up matters this weekend with wins in Game Two.
Umoja and Zetech University, who are making their first appearance in the play-offs after their promotion last season, must win Game Two to tie the series 1-1 and force the third decisive game.
On Sunday, Co-op Bank, who had rocked Umoja in both first and second leg matches of the regular season, got a rude shock when their impressive opponents mounted pressure on them to lead 24-20 at the break.
Coach Carey Oketch had to go back to the drawing board as aggressive forward James Mwangi ran riot teaming up with Joshua Kisali, for a 14-9 third quarter run. Umoja, who qualified for the play-offs after finishing sixth on the final table standings with 34 points struggled with poor finishing.
Experienced Allan Ouma, Martin Okwako and Michael Munene failed to break the solid defense of the basket-hungry bankers.
Co-op Bank, who had forward James Mwangi scoring a game-high 20 points, heavily punished Umoja 23-8 in the last quarter.
Co-op Bank, who have won the league championship eight times, more that any other team in the competition, sailed into the play-offs after grabbing second position with 39 points.
Co-op Bank coach Oketch said: “We intend to improve on shooting power to avoid Game Three which can be tricky for us because our opponents, as new comers, want to write history.’’
Zetech University, who booked a ticket to their first play-offs, gave seasoned Co-op Bank a run for their money before losing narrowly 43-44 in over-time in the opener.
Zetech, coached by Morris Obilo, were down 16-17 at half-time but had Cynthia Mawero and Lucy Mbithe showing their true colors. The duo harassed the bankers to outscore them 8-5 in last quarter.