Home Sports BAL 2024: Rivers Hoopers Secure Third Place

BAL 2024: Rivers Hoopers Secure Third Place

by Annet Mugabo
3:32 pm

 Rivers Hoopers has secured a commanding 80-57 victory over Cape Town Tigers at BK Arena in Kigali, to claim third place in the 2024 BAL season. The Nigerian champions dominated from the start, leading by as many as 28 points and finishing the season with a 6-4 record.

On the same day, Rivers Hoopers’ coach Ogoh Odaudu was named 2024 BAL Coach of the Year. Key players Kelvin Amayo and Devine Eke combined for 45 points, helped the team end their season on a high note.

Cape Town Tigers, missing their top scorers Carter Diarra and Samkelo Cele due to injuries, ended the season with a 2-6 record. The South African team struggled with only 6 assists, 20 turnovers, poor three-point shooting (5-for-32), and making just half of their free throws (10-for-20). Dhieu Deng and Ngor Manyang were the only Tigers players to score in double digits, with 17 and 14 points, respectively.

Ogoh Odaudu had predicted their strong performance, emphasizing that Rivers Hoopers were determined to compete seriously and make an impact, unlike their 1-2 finish in 2021. He stated, “We wanted to put together a team that would come here and compete and make some noise, and that’s what we did.”

The African Basketball League will continue today with Petro de Luanda from Angola facing Al Ahly Benghazi from Libya. The two teams will face off for the first time in BAL history.

The Al Ahly vs. Petro de Luanda encounter will be BAL’s 144th game, dating back to the league’s inception in 2021. Can Petro de Luanda, a team that has played more BAL games (29) than any other team, stop high-flying Al Ahly who are making their BAL debut this season?

If statistics are anything to go by, then the Angolan champions face an uphill task in overcoming a team that averaged 87 points per game in the postseason while recording the best postseason field-goal shooting of 47% compared to Petro’s 37%.

The only similarity between Al Ahly and Petro de Luanda is that both teams made it to the Championship Game after needing five extra minutes each to overcome their Semi-Final opponents.

Al Ahly beat Rivers Hoopers 89-83 while Petro de Luanda edged out Cape Town Tigers 96-86 in a 45-minute match-up.

Although Petro de Luanda scored fewer points per game (76) than Al Ahly (87) in the postseason, the 2022 BAL runners-up limited their postseason opponents to 74 points per game, five points fewer than Al Ahly.

This mouthwatering match-up will feature some intriguing face-offs, with league-leading scorer Jo-Lual Acuil Jr. going up against Yanick Moreira, and Gerson Lukeny facing off against Kevin Murphy.

But Petro de Luanda’s bench has proven to be its secret weapon, with Nicholas Faust, Markeith Cummings, and Jone Pedro providing Sergio Valdeomillos’ team a huge lift off the bench.

If Petro de Luanda are unable to prevent Al Ahly’s newest addition, Robert Golden, from hitting three-pointers, minimize Jo-Lual Acuil Jr.’s dominance in the paint, and neutralize their former player Souleyman Diabate, the Angolan champions will be in trouble.

Interestingly, Diabate could become the only player with three BAL titles if he helps Al Ahly beat his former employer. Michael Fakuade has won two BAL titles with Zamalek (2021) and Al Ahly SC (2023).

Addressing the media, Al Ahly head coach Ivan Jeremic, who can become the second Serbian – since Modrag Perisic – to win a BAL title, noted that his team was ready. Jeremic said, “We are not playing at the level I like as a coach, but the club signed very good import players. They are like my sons, and they listen to me.”

If Al Ahly win the 2024 BAL title, they will become the first Libyan team to win any African trophy. But if they don’t, Petro will lift their second continental trophy since winning the 2015 FIBA Africa Champions Cup.

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