Rwanda: 5 Things to Remember About BAL Playoffs in Kigali

The third edition of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) concluded in Kigali with Egyptian giants Al Ahly taking home the coveted championship after Saturday’s 80-65 comfortable final victory over Senegal’s AS Douanes at BK Arena.

The NBA-affiliated tournament started in March with conference games attracting 12 teams, which were later reduced to eight as the tournament progressed to the playoffs that unfolded in Kigali from May 20 to 27.

The just-concluded basketball show left a number of things worth noting and in this article, Times Sport takes a look at some of them.

Northern Africa’s dominance continues

It is obvious that the Northern Africa is dominating BAL, with Al Ahly becoming the latest team to cement that hegemony.

They added BAL 2023 championship in their trophy cabinet, joining Egyptian fierce rivals Zamalek (2021) and Tunisia’s US Monastir (2022) to the trophy club.

In addition to this, the 2021 and 2022 editions’ final matches were both between north African teams – US Monastir and Zamalek.

Zamalek’s trophy-winning team in the 2021 season was quite impressive, as it ended the tournament unbeaten, winning all the six games.

ALSO READ: PHOTOS – BAL 2022: US Monastir crowned champions after comeback win over Petro de Luanda

New faces shine

This season also saw a number of new players shine at the BAL.

Among these, Al Ahly forward Anunwa “Nuni” Omot won the Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy as the 2023 BAL Most Valuable Player. He recorded 18.9 points per game, 3.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists during the campaign.

Omot’s teammate Ehab Amin also showed his class. The guard, for instance, scored a game high 21 points and six rebounds during their semi-final victory over Stade Malien

AS Douanes’ star Jean-Jacques Boissy was also a newcomer. He starred when his team defeated then pre-tournament favorites Petro de Luanda in the semifinals, scoring 16 of his 17 free throws and top-scored with 28 points.

Stade Malien’s Aliou Diarra also shone. For instance, as his game-high 25 points and 12 rebounds helped his side beat Angola’s Petro de Luanda 73-65 in the third-place game.

Rwanda’s REG struggle again

Rwanda Energy Group (REG) basketball club again suffered an early elimination from the BAL 2023 after losing to Al Ahly in the quarter finals.

This is the second time that the team has failed to make it to the semi-finals, having lost to Cameroon’s FAP in 2022 on home soil.

Only Patriots managed to progress to the semifinals although they were eventually beaten by US Monastir.

Petro were overhyped

They were regarded as pre-tournament favorites to win BAL 2023 since they finished at the top of the Nile Conference in Cairo ahead of home team Al Ahly but Petro de Luanda’s playoff run in Kigali was far from what people anticipated.

Looking at individuals, the team looked like a complete group ready to beat anyone in Kigali but they were exposed to everyone by Liz Mills’ ABC Fighters. Despite beating the Ivorian side 88-84 in the quarter final, Petro were far from convincing and AS Douanes showed everyone that the Angola side was in shambles.

Hard to believe! But results proved otherwise.

Petro might come back stronger but coach Pedro Neto, if given one more chance, will have to work on getting the squad united and bound to win as a group but not as individuals.

Record attendance

Unlike the previous two seasons, iInformation shows that the playoffs had a record attendance – packed crowds during the final week and a sold-out opening and closing night in Kigali. Matches like the quarter final between REG and Al Ahly and the final between AS Douanes and Al Ahly both took place inside a sold out BK Arena.