By Isaac Akugizibwe
KIU, Main Campus-KIU Titans needed an eleven-point margin to outsmart UCU Canons in a nerve fledgling final on the evening of Sunday, March 5th to win their first UCU open championship. The 55-44 Victory means that KIU Titans will begin the new NBL season on a high.
The UCU open is an annual Invitational tournament that serves as the curtain-raiser for the new NBL season. This year's NBL is set to kick off this weekend.
Sunday's final was a closely contested encounter with UCU Canons attempting a comeback midway in the third quarter but the Titans were equally determined to remain afloat. The home crowd thought their boys would pull a shocker only to be silenced by the boys in green who became increasingly ruthless as the clock ticked.
The Titans had beaten UPDF in the Semifinals before meeting the Canons in the finals. It is the final that the new Titan Innocent Ochera proved why he now bleeds green and perhaps, a national team material. He was impressive and simply fascinating to watch. He cemented his outstanding performance with five incredible threes before recording the game's highest,19 points.
Closer to Ochera was the magnificent Edgar Munaba with 15 points and four rebounds. The marauding small forward was simply up for the task.
KIU Titans head coach, Julius Lutwama was impressed with the boys. He was equally excited with the rate at which the Titans are realising their potential.
"It is a good test, a championship and it's usually said that if you work very well on small things, You will be entrusted with bigger things. So beginning small is motivation," he said.
"It is another feel of belonging and bonding from management to players," he added.
And the Titans did not have have their skipper, Joseph Chuma in the whole tournament. His deputy, Stanley Mugerwa stood in very well with an outstanding performance throughout the weekend. He was available at every call and in all the games the Titans played. The organisers could not help but award him, the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the tournament. Coach Julius Lutwama acknowledged Mugerwa's role.
"Mugerwa has given all his shoots tonight and throughout the weekend he might have not done a lot of what he expects of himself but he won the team a gold," he noted.
Winning the UCU Open presents KIU Titans as a team to beat in the 2023 NBL season though Lutwama is adamant that nothing will be taken for granted.
"We have won them, yes, but the League is very different from a tournament. So these teams are special and they deserve every credit for the fight," he acknowledged.
The 2023 NBL season is expected to kick off on Friday 10th March 2023.