Thunder upset form book to romp KBF playoff final
After years of near misses, Nairobi City Thunder, finally, have a chance to fight for the Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF) men’s league title as they qualified for the playoff final over the weekend after beating Embakasi Youth (EMYBA) 3-1 in the semi-final.
In a repeat of last season’s semi-final, Thunder are set to play former champions Ulinzi Warriors in the final scheduled to jump off on December 10 at Nyayo Indoor Arena.
The soldiers outmaneuvered champions Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) 3-1 in the other semi-final to book the final berth.
Thunder struggled to beat debutants EMYBA with individual experience coming in handy for the latter. Despite being promoted to the premier league this season, the Embakasi-based side boasts a wealth of experience having signed a good number of veteran KBF players most drawn from the defunct Co-operative Bank Spartans.
After falling to Brian Busu’s EMYBA 83-80 in the opening match of the best-of-five series, Thunder recollected themselves and picked three consecutive wins to reach their first-ever final. The side won Game Two 80-71 to level the series.
Faheem Juma and team captain Griffin Ligare played a pivotal role in leading Thunder to a Game Three 77-68 win. EMYBA’s top scorer Thomas Kioko made 20 points for the side in Game Three.
Kioko’s heartbreak, however, came in Game Four as he helplessly watched his game high 25 points go down the drain after Thunder held on for a 73-71 win to book that coveted slot to the final. Kevin Chogo and Ligare steered Thunder to the win with 23 and 22 points respectively.
“EMYBA came out strong and it has not been easy for us. We had to fight from behind in all the three wins and at some point the differences were so huge we almost gave up.
“However, it came down to mental strength to make those comebacks. With the final coming so soon after an intense semi-final, we hope to get a winning momentum and ride with it to our first title,” said Thunder captain Ligare.
Meanwhile, Warriors made sure KPA stood no chance at the final as they rose from their Game Two slump in Mombasa to win their two home matches and avoid a decider Game Five.
The soldiers had started the series on a winning note beating the Dockers 82-69 on their backyard but were thrashed 92-69 in Game Two.
Eric Mutoro and skipper John Washika led in securing the final berth for Warriors while at the same time exciting the crowds that had showed up for the thriller.
In Game Three, Mutoro scored 22 while Washika added 14 in a 85-74 outcome. The status quo remained in Game Four as the former sunk 26 while the captain added 15 for a 77-70 victory.