Ulinzi Warriors’ unbeaten run in the Kenya Basketball Federation men’s Premier League comes under threat on Saturday when they lock horns with Thunder at United States International University Africa at 4.30pm.
The season enters the fourth week, with 24 first-leg matches on the cards at the same venue on Saturday and Sunday. Double courts and ‘A’ and ‘B’ will be used to accommodate congested fixtures with the opening two matches starting at 9am and the last from 4.30pm.
Ulinzi Warriors beat Umoja 78-63 last weekend for a fourth straight win and lead the 12-team table on eight points. Ulinzi, coached by William Balozi, have so far registered victories against Equity Bank, KCA-U, Strathmore University Blades and Umoja.
The Eastleigh-based soldiers, who will wind up their two-match programme against hosts USIU-A Tigers on Sunday, got a big boost by signing shooting guard Victor Bosire, and forward Joseph Mwangi from reigning champions Kenya Ports Authority, and towering forward Alvin Nyangweso, formerly of USIU-A Tigers.
Team manager Stephen Bartilol said: "We have trained together for a week and nothing will stop us from keeping our clean run going. We respect Thunder, whom we eliminated 3-2 in the play-off semi-final last season after recovering from two games down."
He said the return of seasonal Tiberius Menya and Byron Mabonga from official duties have also beefed up their squad as they bid to reclaim the title they last won in 2015.
Thunder on the other hand cannot be underrated because of their ability to turn up in big matches. Thunder will be fielding experienced former Ulinzi Warriors dangerous forward Ancette Wafula, veteran shooting guard Griffins Ligare and power forward Kevin Chogo. Thunder shocked champions KPA 88-76 at their backyard in Mombasa in the second week of the season to sound a warning to their opponents.
TUNDER TACKLE WORLD HOPE
On Sunday, Thunder, who finished third after defeating Strathmore University Blades 61-58 in the classification match last year, will start as favourites when they entertain World Hope.
World Hope registered a morale-boosting 58-55 win over USIU-A Tigers in their last assignment and are scheduled to play their weekend opener against KCA-U on Saturday.
Blazers will meet coach Waringo Gitau’s Pirates while Strathmore University to face fellow students Raira University at 10.30am.
Equity Bank will heavily rely on Feisal Aden as they confront newly promoted Emyba in another men’s Premier League showdown. Emyba, spearheaded by Thomas Kioko, edged out rivals Eldonets 73-71, who defeated them 3-0 in last year’s men’s Division One play-offs final, last weekend.
In Saturday’s women’s Premier League matches, reigning champions Equity Bank take on underdogs Kenyatta University Oryx at 12pm. Storms will play two tough outings against Strathmore University on Saturday before they meet unpredictable Zetech University on Sunday.
Storms grabbed the third position last year following their 53-41 victory over Strathmore University Swords in their classification play-offs encounter.
Newly promoted coach Juma Kent’s University of Nairobi Dynamites, who made a comeback in the top flight competition after 22 years, will meet Tangit Sparks formerly Masaku Sparks on Sunday at 9am.
Sunday’s lower tier highlight will pit Little Prince against 4 Christ while Trailblazers tackle Blazers. Kenya Airports Authority will lock horns with Terrorists while Zetech University have a date with Kenya Defence Forces Morans.
Saturday at USIU-A Court "A": Blazers v Pirates (9am), Strathmore University v Riara University (10.30am), Strathmore Swords v Storms (12pm), World Hope v KCA-U (1.30pm), Eymba v Equity Bank (2pm), Ulinzi Warriors v Thunder (4.30pm).
USIU-A Court "B": Little Prince v NIBS (9am), Strathhmore University v Egerton University (10.30am), Riara University v MKU Thika (12pm), Zetech University v Trailblazers (1.30pm), Strathmore University (3pm), KDF Morans v Barclays Bank (4.30pm).
Sunday USIU-A Court "A": Dynamites v Tangit Sparks (9am), Storms v Zetech University (10.30am), Oryx v Equity Bank (12pm), Equity Bank v Umoja (2pm), Ulinzi Warriors v USIU-A Tigers (3pm), Thunder v World Hope (4.30pm).
USIU-A Court "B": NIBS v MKU Thika (9am), Little Prince v 4 Christ (10.30am), Trailblazers v Blazers (12pm), KAA v Terrorists (2pm), Zetech University v KDF Morans (3pm), Pirates v Lions (4.30pm).