Ulinzi Warriors are on course to clinch top in regular season of men’s basketball Premier League after picking maximum four points at the weekend.
Ulinzi, who are seeking to recapture the title they last won in 2015, started the weekend with a hard-fought 88-78 victory over Equity Bank at Nyayo Gymnasium on Saturday before defeating World Hope 56-51 on Sunday.
Equity Bank, who were beaten hands down by Ulinzi in the first leg, came breathing fire in the return leg stretching the soldiers into extra-time. Both teams were locked 72-72 in regulation time despite Ulinzi leading 43-39 at half-time. Ulinzi then outscored Equity Bank 16-6 in extra-time to emerge victorious. Ulinzi shooting guard Eric Mutoro scored 22 points, forward John Washika 23 and guard Victor Bosire contributed 15.
The two wins saw Ulinzi dislodge Thunder from the summit of the league standings with 39 points from 19 wins and one loss. Thunder are second with 36 points after having won 17 matches and lost two.
Ulinzi Warriors are left with two matches - against sworn rivals Thunder and Umoja - to end the second leg. They must avenge the first leg defeat 86-55 against Thunder to finish top.
Ulinzi Warriors coach William Balozi said: "We lost to Thunder in first leg but winning the second leg will leave them with three losses thus giving us an advantage. Our match against Equity Bank was the toughest this season and winning without forward James Mwangi was a plus."
Equity Bank men’s team maintained fourth position on the table with 29 points after garnering three points at the weekend. After losing to Ulinzi on Saturday, the bankers bounced back to crash troubled USIU-A Tigers 76-35 on Sunday. Equity Bank, who have never won the league title, have 12 wins and five loses.
Coach Carey Oketch said: "We played well beyond my expectations and deserved to win against Ulinzi in regulation time. We missed open lay-ups and made wrong decisions which cost us. We still have bright chances of finishing in the four positions with six matches at hand."
World Hope and USIU-A Tigers need a miracle to escape relegation after losing critical matches at the weekend. USIU-A Tigers, who have lost glory under Kenya men’s national team coach Cliff Owuor, were beaten hands down by Equity Bank on Saturday. On Sunday, the students were again humiliated 57-42 by their nemesis Strathmore University Blades. Following their win, Blades moved to eighth position on 24 points but are still in danger of missing out on the eight-team play-offs.
World Hope - who are handled by veteran George Namake - lost to Ulinzi Warriors. World Hope are second bottom on 20 points while USIU-A Tigers, who have only won two matches, are last with 19 points. Owuor said: "We are building a young team for the future after top players graduated and joined other clubs."
Emyba’s 75-70 victory over hosts Lakeside in Kisumu took their tally to 28 and are now assured of a spot in the play-offs. Emyba are fifth after having won nine matches and lost 10.
In the women’s Premier League, coach Juma Kent’s University of Nairobi Dynamites staged a major upset beating Strathmore University Swords 49-44 to boost their play-offs hopes. Dynamites retained eighth spot with 27 points after seventh-placed Tangit Sparks also won 71-65 against Africa Nazarene University.
Despite the shock loss, Swords' play-off spot is secured as they lie second with 33 points. Champions Equity Bank lead the standings with 37 points from 18 wins and one loss.
USIU-A Flames, who are former two-time champions, remained bottom with 14 points after they lost 51-45 to Zetech University. Meanwhile, Zetech displaced Storms from third position with 33 points.
In the men’s Division One league, Pirates enhanced their chances of finishing in top four positions after they edged KDF Morans 56-52. The victory kept the varsity students in third spot on 35 points behind leaders Blazers (37) and Terrorists (36) respectively. Morans are ninth with 29 points and have two matches left to confirm their play-off spot.
Men’s Premier League
Ulinzi Warriors 88-78 Equity Bank, Equity Bank 76-35 USIU-A Tigers, Ulinzi Warriors 56-51 World Hope, Blades 57-42 USIU-A Tigers, Emyba 75-70 Lakeside
Women’s Premier League
Tangit Sparks 71-65 ANU, Dynamites 49-44 Strathmore University, Zetech University 51-45 USIU-A Flames, Lady Bucks 50-75 Riara University
Men’s Division One
KCITI 72-46 Renegades, Pirates 56-52 KDF Morans, JKUAT 96-49 Renegades