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KPA end long wait for league title

Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) on Saturday won the Kenya Basketball Federation men’s Premier League title after 23 years of waiting.

KPA beat Ulinzi Warriors 71-59 in a charged Game Four of the best-of-five series play-off final. KPA were declared champions on a 3-1 run after the make-or-break match played at the Safaricom Stadium, Kasarani.

KPA, who last won the crown in 1991 when their coach Anthony Ojukwu who had just joined the team as player, had beaten Ulinzi Warriors 71-57 in Game Three on Friday night and needed victory in Game Four to wrap up the series.

KPA had won Game One 68-67 with Ulinzi tying the series 1-1 with a 70-57 win in Game Two.

MOTIVATED

Having knocked out defending champions Co-op Bank 3-0 in the best-of-five series semi-final, KPA were motivated to win the Premier League championship with Martin Gitonga combining well with Tobias Onyango for a 11-2 lead inside the opening eight minutes.

Ulinzi Warriors, who operated with only seven players and who were without the dependable Ancette Wafula, trailed 11-6 in the first quarter. KPA coach Anthony Ojukwu gave chances to all his players, with Tobias Onyango’s three-pointer lifting the dockers to a 18-8 lead but Ulinzi, buoyed by Victor Odendo, drew level 22-22.

Guard Ben Mfutu, lifted Ulinzi to a 23-22 lead for the first time for a 29-22 half-time break, sending KPA into panic. KPA went scoreless in the opening three minutes of the third quarter, with Odendo and William Ochieng leading Ulinzi from the front for a 42-35 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

KPA’s Kooshen Diriye and Alex Lugasi lifted KPA to turn the tables 43-42. The teams were tied 46-46 with six minutes 17 second left, throwing the game wide open. Lugasi carried the day for KPA, scoring two freeshots, the dockers overtaking Ulinzi to lead 48-46 and go all the way.

RETIREMENT PRESENT

Ulinzi Warriors, who had eliminated USIU-A Tigers 3-2 in the semi-final, replied with 15 points through Ben Mfutu, Odendo (12) and Ochieng (eight).

Coach Anthony Ojukwu said: “The win is both a Christmas gift and my retirement present after having waited for so long. My strategy of using all the players on the bench worked well for us.’’

Ulinzi coach William Balozi said: “I had only seven players against my opponents who had a strong technical bench. We look forward to improve next year.’’

Ulinzi went home with Sh500,000 in cash prize, while KPA pocketed Sh1 million richer, courtesy of sponsors SuperSport. The league’s Most Valuable Players, KPA forward Aerial Okall, was awarded  Sh50,000 by Nakuru-based Menengai Oil Refinery.