Badr Azouga

FUS and Dynamo steal the show on opening night

THE opening night of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) dished up upsets, with home club Cape Town Tigers and tournament favourites Petro de Luanda, suffering defeats to Dynamo Basketball Club and FUS Rabat respectively.

Game 1: FUS Rabat’s bench steals the show

In their debut game in the BAL’s Kalahari conference, FUS de Rabat defeated Petro de Luanda 82-73, handing them their third straight loss. Soufiane Benmhine, reflecting on the game, credited the team’s success to their awareness of their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.

“The key was to respect Petro but not to fear them. Every player respected their role, including those on the bench,” said Benmhine. Jonathan Jordan led the charge for FUS, scoring 17 points, while Aliou Diarra, the 2023 Defensive Player of the Year, picked up where he left off in Season 3 with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

BAL Action
Yanick Moreira efforts were not enough as Petro fell to FUS Rabat. Pictures: The BTO

Petro de Luanda, who is usually a good shooting team, struggled to create the space they needed on the floor to play their game. As a result, only two players put up double digits. “Tonight was not a good game. We got killed on offence and defence. We struggled to play as a team while the other team did,” Petro coach Jose Neto.

In the third quarter, Petro seemed to gain momentum, sparked by some steals by Childe Dundao, which led to back-to-back threes from Carlos Morais. Unfortunately, this was short-lived as the team closed out the quarter at an 11-point deficit.

Despite this defeat, Morais is still confident in his team’s ability to bounce back in their next game against the hosts, The Cape Town Tigers.

“We were very unlucky, but we have only lost one game. Our focus is to qualify for Kigali, and this loss does not change that,” said  Morais.

Game 2: Dynamo spoils Tigers’ local debut

In a fully packed arena, Burundi’s Dynamo Basketball Club spoiled the Cape Town Tigers’ home opener with a 86-73 win. The Tigers struggled to share the ball and settled for desperate shots in the first half, going 5/18 beyond the arc and giving up 22 points in the paint. Which them at a 15-point deficit by halftime.

Despite a full-court press effort and some electrifying plays in the third by Samkelo Cele (26 points) and Billy Preson Jr (18 points), which cut the lead down to 6, the team lost momentum as they became careless with the ball, leading to them being down 13 points by the end of the third.

BAL Action
Samkelo Cele played a starring role for the Tigers, who came up short against Dynamo.

“We did a good job of penetrating the paint, but that counts for nothing if we cannot convert. We didn’t protect the ball and struggled to play defence for a full 24 seconds,” remarked Cele.

Dynamo’s coach Julien Chaignot credited his players’ readiness for the moment. The French coach also acknowledged the importance of winning the first game, which is a good first step for the rest of the competition.

In the post-game presser, Burundi’s Bryton Hobbs spoke about the hard grind that brought them here, including training outdoors for six weeks, sometimes three times a day in the rain.

“We built chemistry over those six weeks, which has made us a tight-knit team. We are here to win.”

Hobbs’ 17 first-half points gave Dynamo a comfortable lead. However, his finesse and leadership shined bright in the second half as he got some good looks and dished out 7 assists.

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