BY RONALD AWANY
On November 13, the Lady Canons beat A1 Challenge 80-57 to complete a 3-0 sweep in the women’s semifinal play-offs of the Federation of Uganda Basketball Association (FUBA) National Basketball League (NBL).
If they fail to bring the trophy home that will be a surprise to many, given the consistent dominance of the team since its inception.
Coach Nick Natuhereza has achieved great success with the Lady Canons and this season he will want to add another winners’ medal to his cabinet.
For a team that has been consistent this season, topping the table during the regular season and coming close to winning the Club Zone V championship in Dar es Salaam, in October, there is so much at stake in as far as winning the trophy is concerned.
This championship is for the Lady Canons’ to lose because:
The Lady Canons are the league defending champions. They have reached the final of the league a record ten times, winning five of them. The only team to have played an equal number of finals is the KCCA Leopards. This gives the team the psychological motivation they need to put up a winning fight.
Should they win the championship, it will be the second time they are winning back-to-back league trophies. The other time was in 2010 and 2011.
The other issue is the age factor. The team boasts of a very young, galvanized and energetic squad. Three-quarters of the squad are below 23 years of age.
Only Judith Nansobya, Franceas Nabulobi and Brenda Mbone surpass the 25-age mark. While the rest provide fresh legs, speed and zeal to their game, these three add a finishing touch of experience and mentorship.
As a matter of fact, regardless of who the team will be fielding in the finals, they will still have a younger team than the KCCA Leopards.
KCCA, on the other hand, has a set of players with an average age of 27 to 30 years, a decisive factor when it comes to playing a recurring number of games, such as the finals (best-of-seven play-offs). The advantage is that Natuhereza’s team can put up longer resistance on court than their opponents.
Speed in the build-ups and transitions have characterised their game for most of the season. Rosine Michomyisa, Rachael Muwanguzi, Ritah Immanishimwe and Zainah Lokwameri hold the athletic advantage of the team.
They can dictate the speed of the game from the beginning to the end. This helps to break down opposition resistance.
A variety of efficient shooting guards in Immanishimwe, Muwanguzi and the experienced Judith Nansobya is the other secret weapon that Natuhereza possesses in the battle to retain the crown. The three have amassed an average of 25 points per game amongst them this season.
The most important factor this season is the attitude of the teams towards winning the championship.
KCCA Leopards, judging from their recent on-and-off performance in the Zone V championships and the league, have not shown the hunger for the crown. JKL Dolphins on the other hand do not seem skeptical about their title chances.
However, it is the Lady Canons who have shown the hunger to the championship. This is evident in their frustration at losing any game.
That said, I would like to salute the Canons for defying the odds by reaching the semi-final play-offs. In spite of the fact that they lost to City Oilers by a whopping 3-0 margin, they must be commended. Instead of criticizing the team, I give credit to the coach for turning an average team into a championship contender.
When the team lost Bonifance Okello, Ivan Lumanyika, Desmond Owili, Martin Okwako and Innocent Oduor at the beginning of the season, everybody ruled them out of the play-offs but they made it that far.
I also urge fans to go and support the teams. You are the sixth man on that court. So go and support the ladies.
The writer is the Sports Editor at The Standard