Lynette Matheka in Dar es Salaam
Equity Bank Hawks are the new champions of the FIBA Africa Zone Five women’s championship that concluded yesterday at Tanzania National Stadium Indoor Arena in Dar es Salaaam.
In a repeat of last year’s Zone Five women’s finals, Hawks’ faced off with Kenya Ports Authority( KPA) in a charged encounter with the former proving too strong for the 2017 Zone Five and local league defending champions to be crowned champions.
It was sweet revenge for the bankers who came to the zonal championship as Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF) runners-up after losing to the dockers in the finals. They had also lost in the Zone Five finals last year to the same team.
“I am grateful for the win. It has been five years since the team began and the journey has been long to getting this title,” said coach David Maina.
The bankers were strong on all fronts, leading the scores in the first three quarters 24-17, 19-9 and 20-15 before KPA won the final period 13-7 for the final 70-54 score.
“We were better than KPA defensively and our attack worked well. In the first quarter they got the better of us with three-point throws but after changing our defence to counter that we were good to go,” said the elated Maina.
The coach says he will use similar tactics in the KBF league where two sides are likely to renew their rivalry in the finals for the local title. The losing coach, Antony Ojukwu blamed lack of team chemistry and basic mistakes for the loss.
Meanwhile, KPA men fought to the last minute of the third place playoffs only to lose by three points to Rwanda Energy Group (REG) in a 74-71 outcome.
The dockers started the match on a high, scoring 23 points against REG’s 15 in the first quarter. The Rwandese, however returned for the second quarter baying for KPA’s blood and went on to score 27 points while containing KPA to 15 points and head to the breather with a four-point advantage.
KPA intensified their defence in the second quarter but on the offen their shots were not falling and that cost them the third quarter as REG carried it 18-13.
Coach Sammy Kiki’s charges kept hope for a comeback alive as the final period started with them trailing by nine points and they caught up to level the score at 60. The two sides exchanged leads up until they levelled at 69 points.
With, one minute to play, REG returned at the helm with a three-point throw while KPA added a basket for the 71. Moses Wanjara picked a foul with just six seconds on the clock with the resulting free throws handing REG the win.
“The competition has been tough from the first to the last match but we gave a good account of ourselves. Finishing fourth against worthy competiton than we had in the last edition shows growth on our part.
We have picked valuable lessons that will be instrumental in our KBF playoff matches,” said team captain Samuel Ochola.