By Isaac Akugizibwe
KIU, Main Campus-KIU has been failing within margins to secure national glory in the National Basketball league but with both KIU Titans and Rangers through to the semifinals Playoffs, the long-awaited National Basketball titles could be coming home in twos.
Both teams won their best of three quarterfinal series 2-0, an indicator that they have no room for error at this stage of the season. And should they go about business the same way in the semis, this year's NBL men's and women's finals will have a team in green on either side.
The Titans swept away five-time NBL champions Power basketball club to draw neighbours Namuwongo Blazers in the semi's while KIU Rangers eased passed Miracle Ravens and will meet UCU lady Canons in the best of five series semifinal playoffs this weekend.
During the regular season, only two teams managed a double against KIU Titans, Nam blazers and UCU Canons. This presents a chance for the Titans to make amends as well as unleash revenge on either team which will require UCU Canons to beat defending champions City Oilers in the other tie for a KIU Titans vs UCU Canons final. However, the boys in green must first deal with the noisy neighbours.
KIU Titans coaching duo, Raymond Muhumuza and Julius Lutwama must be aware that playing the current Namuwongo side isn't an easy task, one that deserves the best of approaches, discipline and resolve. If it were talking about the creme de la creme of NBL this season, no team beats Stephen Nyeko's side.
Having begun the season with Victory against seven-time consecutive champions City Oilers, a warning was quickly issued that the slum-based side had headed for a statement in their first full season in NBL. Whereas reaching the semifinals is already a big achievement only in their second season, the Namuwongo ghetto boys seem not willing to stop there. They have at least made it very clear that they want to be champions this season.
Among their most recent signings are two former Titans, Ariel Okall who signed at the beginning of the second round and Peter Obleng who joined the club a few weeks ago just before the playoffs. Kasujja and Ikong are the other Namuwongo players that have ever played for the Titans.
Though many doubted KIU's potential by mid-season, their imperious performance in the second round has since turned them into a team everyone, including all the semifinalists would wish to avoid. The addition of Fidel Okoth Odour, Joseph Chuma and Isaiah Mabeny Ater immediately turned the season around.
Their coming made the team more confident than ever. This also saw the end of the Titans' dependence on individuals.
Isaiah Mabeny Ater has been so impressive that he was nominated alongside Rangers' evergreen Ninette Uwineza for the August real stars award which they lost to Brendah Ekone of JKL lady Dolphins.
KIU's performance in the first round of the season had entirely rotated on sensational small forward, Edgar Munaba and Ahmed Kassa, a syndrome that had attempted to ruin their season had it not changed in time. Their presence will still play a big deal in the semi's.
Henry Okoth is the other player who has had a good season, playing a very great role both on and off the court. His inspirational leadership abilities have been evident all season long. This is the man who confidently assured the public that KIU Titans would be champions this season at a time the team had gone three games without a win. Things turned around ever since and the former UPDF boy now has just a few hurdles to fulfil his promise.
KIU Rangers need nothing but self-belief to conquer UCU
After failing to register a win against UCU Lady Canons in the regular season, Roger Serunyigo's ladies will need nothing but sweet revenge when they meet the Mukono outfit in the best of five semifinal series starting this weekend.
The good news is that all the players will be available for selection including long-time absentee, Fildauce Namuleme though Perus Nyamwege has an exam at the same time on Sunday and will need to get to terms with her lecturer and department over the dilemma before the d-day.
Skipper Ninette Uwineza, Sharon Kirabo, Perus Nyamwege and Ines Kanyamuza have had an outstanding performance this season so far but will need more than double their effort to eject UCU in the best of five series.
Despite losing to both JKL lady Dolphins and the Canons, KIU is capable of beating anyone in the top flight of Ugandan basketball. As coach Rogers usually tells his girls, they only need self-belief to beat everyone in the league.
The Ladies in green lost to UCU by a point in the first round and two in the second round and could have won at both encounters had they not collapsed in the dying minutes. Maybe they will need to play until the final whistle this time round in order to prove their worth.
However, their loss to magic Stormers in game one of the quarterfinals is enough proof that UCU lady Canons are beatable. It is evident, that KIU is far better a side than Magic Stormers but the old sporting adage will still matter, it's not over until it is over.