Petro de Luanda

Tigers shock Petro and give themselves a lifeline

SATURDAY’S sold-out match at Sun Bet Arena saw the Cape Town Tigers secure their first Kalahari Conference win after defeating Petro de Luanda 84-78.

The Tigers started the Basketball Africa League encounter with a high level of aggression – which was unusual for them. They were able to match the intensity of Petro in the paint and reduce their turnovers. The Tigers played as a team, shared the ball, and the result saw them lead every quarter for the first time in the tournament.

Cartier Diarra led all scorers in the first half, scoring 12 points and dishing out five assists. Storm Gilchrist shook off his rookie title and made major contributions at both ends of the floor before he sustained an injury.

During the post-match presser, Tigers coach Florsheim Ngwenya noted Gilchrist’s injury as an ankle sprain. In the end, Billy Preston’s 11-point second-half performance sealed the deal for the Tigers.

Ngwenya credited his team’s level of concentration until the final buzzer sounded. “This shows that with the proper preparation, we give ourselves a chance to hang with the best of them,” said the Tigers coach.

Storm Gilchrist injury
Storm Gilchrist clutches his left ankle after injury during the match against Petro. Pictures: The BTO

Dylan Whitbred, who had a 12-point performance off the bench, acknowledged the fans for cheering the team on against the memorable victory against Petro.

“Having the fans here is an incredible experience. I try to tell the guys and remind everyone who comes to watch me play that it is an absolute pleasure to have them in the arena. I do not take that for granted,” said Whitbred. “So we come out with a lot of heart and played for the fans… Because it’s all about them. I am glad we were able to pull out this win.”

Petro de Luanda has had a difficult season, and the outcome of their final conference game reflects this. José Neto, the coach, expressed dissatisfaction with the team’s performance, stating they did not play to their usual standard.

“The team isn’t here. The players are but Petro isn’t here,” says Neto. “Throughout the tournament, different players have stood out but we didn’t play together as a team and that is a surprise to me too.”

Last night’s game was no different. Neto, who took responsibility for the two losses, pointed out that despite the game’s statistics, he believed the Tigers wanted it more.

“The game is not about numbers, it is about who is hungrier and Cape Town [Tigers] were hungrier than us,” said Neto. “The Tigers played well enough to win. The numbers are not that different to me but they had more spirit.”

Petro had many moments where they looked like a shell of themselves and struggled from the three – which has historically been a strong suit of theirs. They were also out-rebounded (50/45).

“We didn’t respect the Tigers enough to show up and do what needed to be done and the results show that,” said Neto.

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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.

FUS and Dynamo steal the show on opening night Read More »

Moreira says having fun could deliver success to Petro’s BAL run

YANICK Moreira’s career is one of Africa’s greatest success stories in basketball. From his youth and into his prime he has enjoyed a playing career illuminated by trophies. While many would be content if they had half of what Moreira has won, he on the other hand remains hungry for more.

While fortunate to have been in winning situations in his journey, the foundational work of moulding and shaping the phenomenal Petro de Luanda player started in his home country, Angola. He says witnessing the esteemed Palancas Negras showing out in continental competition led him to his present path. 

“I fell in love with basketball by watching my national team (Angola) playing in the AfroBasket in Luanda. It inspired me to want also wear the national team vest and represent my country at highest level,” explained the 32-year-old.

Angola'sYanick Moreira
Yanick Moreira’s love for basketball started when he saw the Angolan national team play. Pictures FIBA

While enamoured by his country’s exploits on the court, his family, on the other hand, were sceptical of his decision to play basketball. They felt Moreira would have better outcomes if he pursued education. 

Fortunately for the big man, there would be a turning point that changed his family’s opinion about his pursuit of basketball.

“They were not sure how far I would go with basketball. In their (family) opinion, school and getting a degree was my best option,” said Moreira. “Thats until they saw me play for the national team… ‘You are good’ was how they responded.” 

Having changed his family’s opinion on his career choice, Moreira continued to thrive, and a world of opportunity opened, and his cup of success also flowed.

He had already enjoyed multiple league and cup successes before jetting off to the United States on a college scholarship. At the latter end of his time at South Plains College, his team won the NJCAA tournament, and he also scooped the MVP award (all in 2012). He was also an NJCAA All-American.  

In his final college year (2015) at Southern Methodist University, where he graduated, he was also the ACC’s Most Improved Player and Second All-ACC team.

As a professional player, he attained NBA G League success with 905 Raptors in 2017 and won a FIBA Champions League title with Italian club Virtus Bologna. Moreira says the genesis of his winning attitude stems from the national team and former club, Primeiro de Agosto’s “winning culture”.

 

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“I have grown up in a winning culture. I grew up playing for Primeiro de Agosto, and every game we played, we had to win. So, having that mentality at a young age helped me wherever I went. I always tell myself, ‘I know how to win,” said Moreira. “Also, watching my national team win most of the time was encouraging.

“I also told myself, ‘I want to bring something back for my country.”

He also had a reflection on his decade-long overseas experience. The former AEK Athens player says leaving Angola built his character.

“It made me stronger (playing overseas), especially as I was away from my family. My desire was to play basketball at a higher level and somebody gave me an opportunity to make the most of my talent. I have never looked back, since then,” said Moreira. “I realised how far basketball can take me. With focus, dedication, and with hard work, the opportunities came.”

Following a shortlived stay in Israel with Hapoel Afula BC, Moreira recently returned to Angola. He is helping to lead Petro’s charge for a 17th Angolan Basketball League title. The 2.11m (6ft11) big man also wants to change the fortunes of Os Tricolores in the Basketball Africa League (BAL), a trophy that has eluded the Angolan giants since the tournament tipped off in 2021.

Yanick Moreira playing in BAL Season 2
Yanick Moreira feels his game is improving with every year.

Moreira was part of the Petro team that made their only final in 2022, in which they lost Tunisia’s US Monastir. As Petro heads to their fourth BAL, he urges his teammates to enjoy themselves more. 

“Of course, you always want to win… It will always be in our minds, but we also need to do is have fun. Play smart. Play together, but most importantly, have fun and enjoy,” emphasised Moreira. “Many teams do not get the opportunity to play at the BAL. We need to enjoy this moment because you don’t know when you will get it again.

“For forty minutes, you can forget the stuff going on in your life and enjoy basketball. It’s forty minutes of doing what you love.” 

Another aspect Moreira is enjoying is developing his game. As a veteran player, he’s added a few more tricks to his bag to outsmart opponents. 

“I feel great (about my game). As you get older, you add some stuff to become better. Every year, I feel I am getting better,” said Moreira. “I want to get better by the time the BAL starts. I am in great shape and ready to go.”

Moreira’s return to Petro significantly improves their BAL aspirations. He has won in the parts of the world he played in. Hopefully, his championship pedigree will rub off on the Angolan juggernaut.

Moreira says having fun could deliver success to Petro’s BAL run Read More »

Is the window closing on Morais’ BAL title shot?

PETRO de Luanda is a highly decorated club that has participated in every instalment of the Basketball Africa League (BAL). Despite their extensive experience in the league, they have yet to win the BAL trophy. Ahead of the BAL, The Big Tip Off previews Petro.

Team: Petro de Luanda

Country: Angola

History: The 40-year-old club has a history of success on home soil and continentally. Petro has won many titles over the years, including 16 Angolan Basketball League championships, two Luanda Provincial Champions titles, 14 Angolan Cup titles, 10 Wlademiro Romero Super Cup titles, one Victorino Cunha Cup title and two FIBA Africa Club Champions Cup titles.

In the first season, they finished in third place and made it to the final the following year, where they fell short against Tunisia’s US Monastir. 

Jose Neto coach of Petro de Luanda
Can Jose Neto lead Petro to the promised land in Season 4 of the BAL? Pictures: FIBA and the BTO

Despite their lack of a BAL title, Petro has always managed to finish among the top four in the BAL.

Route To BAL: Angola is one of six countries whose club’s automatic qualification into the BAL. Petro went 23-1 throughout the season and defeated Primero de Agosto in the Angolan Basketball League finals to clinch their 16th national title.

Coach: Brazilian coach José Neto will again lead Petro in their title quest. Neto has extensive coaching experience at the club and national team level for Brazil. He is also the head coach of Brazil’s national women’s team, and his coaching career is highly decorated.

Previously, he coached at Flamengo basketball club and achieved great success. He won a FIBA Intercontinental Cup Championship, a FIBA Americas League Championship, and four consecutive Brazilian National League (NBB) titles. 

During his time with Petro, he has won three Angolan League Champion titles, two Angolan Cup trophies, and two Angolan Super Cup titles. Neto is also a three-time Angolan League Coach of the Year and he won Coach of the Year in Season 2 of the BAL.

Star Player: Carlos Morais, a veteran and legendary basketball player from Angola, is a star player on the Petro team. Last season, when Petro appeared to be struggling in the final stages of games, Morais was the go-to guy. He made key plays that helped to swing the momentum in Petro’s favour.

At 38, he had his best performance in Season 3 of the BAL… Recording improvements in every statistical category, averaging 15.6 points, 4.4 rebounds per game, and 3.3 assists per game.

In Season 2 of the BAL, Morais earned All-First Team honours.

Is the window closing on Morais’ BAL title shot? Read More »

Diabate brings the right fuel to Petro’s BAL quest

First BAL title meant the most to Diabate

SOULEYMANOU Diabate never imagined when he left his homeland of Cote d’Ivoire as a teenager that his name and his game would reach the fame that it has, internationally.

The point guard, popularly known as Solo, who spoke to The Big Tip Off last Thursday, intimated that basketball was one of the reasons he had travelled to France, but he did not, in his wildest dreams, think he would go pro.

“It was one of the best things I experienced. I left my parents at fourteen to go to France to study and play basketball. To reach the level that I did, playing in the French first division, a league second to the NBA, was a blessing. I enjoyed my time there, and now I am back in Africa,” said Diabate, who turned pro in 2006. “Honestly, I just played the game for enjoyment. I did not think of playing the game at the highest level. After two or three years in France, I realised I could go far with the game. The coaches who watched and encouraged me also made me realise I had to take the chance, and I did.”

Solo Diabate
Solo Diabate brings title credentials to Petro de Luanda. Pictures: Cheick Haidara

The 37-year-old spent 15 years playing overseas with countries like France, where his pro career started, Macedonia and China.

While Diabate had a solid playing career abroad, his return to Africa has yielded spectacular returns and enhanced his reputation as a winner. The 1.83m (6 ft0) floor general helped Egyptian super club Zamalek capture the inaugural Basketball Africa League (BAL) title two years ago. A year later, he would become the only player to win back-to-back BAL titles, this time with Tunisia’s US Monastir.

“Returning to Africa almost at the end of my career and getting to play at the BAL has been unbelievable. I am also helping young guys to focus on their dreams, so it’s great thing and I have won two BAL titles. It’s been an amazing experience,” said Diabate.

Despite having bagged two BAL titles, the Ivorian described winning in the league’s debut season, where he averaged eight points, one rebound and three assists per game, as his most memorable.

“Honestly, it was winning with Zamalek. Everything in the team was perfect, and it was the first edition of the BAL. It was a history-making moment because we were the first team to win it. Besides winning the trophy, the team atmosphere was great. I have good memories of that time. Only good memories,” said Diabate, who joined the Angolan club Petro de Luanda last year.

Solo Diabate has won two BAL titles since returning to the African continent.

The ambitious Petro, who lost last year’s continental final, will count on Diabate, Carlos Morais, Joan Petro, Ater Majok and Childe Dundão to help them capture a maiden BAL title.

Diabate says expectations are high at Petro, who are in the Nile Conference, which tips off on April 26. The belief is that this is Petro’s year and who can doubt that given the team the Angolan club has put together?

“I think we have a good and balanced team of young and experienced players. Of course, I bring my experience and my game. It’s nice to be here at Petro, even if there is more pressure to win the BAL. It is Petro’s goal, and they want it, so there is pressure on all of us,” said Diabate.

One of the players who will help Petro in their quest towards winning a first BAL crown is centre Majok, a teammate of Diabate’s at title-winning Monastir last year.

Diabate is excited about Majok landing at Petro, and he feels the big man will give the team an added edge.

“I am happy that Majok has joined Petro. We had a good relationship from our time at Monastir. He is a good player and a good guy. His ability to block shots will deter opposing players in the paint. He can also pass, and he is a leader. We have a good team with balance. We now have to prove ourselves on the court,” said the Cote D’Ivoire player.

 

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Petro will have their title credentials tested against Nile Conference opponents Al Ahly (Egypt), Cape Town Tigers (South Africa), Ferroviario da Beira (Mozambique), City Oilers (Uganda) and Seydou Legacy Athletique Club (Guinea).

Diabate is familiar with Al Ahly from his time in Egypt and he is somewhat knowledgeable of the Tigers. The other teams are a closed book to him.

“I do not know much about some of the teams. I know Al Ahly is a solid team, and their coach won the first BAL with us at Zamalek. He is a smart coach, and I’m sure he has put together a great team,” said Diabate. “I also know players from the Cape Town team, especially Evans Ganapamo. What I am also sure of is that our group is going to be tough.

“The team from Mozambique look good. I do not think they are strong, but they are solid. So, we have to be careful, and no disrespect to the other conference but ours has the best teams.”

There is no question that Petro is loaded with talent, and they are championship material, but come the start of the Nile Conference, Diabate and his teammates have to prove they can swim against the coming tide.

* To see Nile Conference fixtures, click here

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