Justice Jr. or Quezada? A battle between two of Africa Basketball League's best guards
LUANDA (Angola) - Friday's clash between Primeiro D'Agosto and Smouha Sporting Club represents more than just a battle between two teams looking for a place in Sunday's FINAL FOUR final in Luanda, Angola.
For the Angolans it is an attempt to increase their trophy cabinet with a ninth African title while Smouha SC will look to become Egypt's third club - since Gezira in 1998 and Al Ahly in 2016 - to win the title.
Ahead of the highly-anticipated clash, both teams presents more similarities than differences, starting with the way Smouha and D'Agosto reached the FINAL FOUR.
#AfricaLeague #Elite8 #TopPerformers 💪💪— Africa Basketball League (@AfricaLeague) April 19, 2019
Malick Nguirane (🇹🇳 JS Kairouan)
Wayne Arnold (🇲🇦 AS Sale)
James Justice Jr (🇪🇬 Smouha)
Manny Quezada (🇦🇴 Primeiro D'Agosto)
Todd O'Brien (🇪🇬 Al Ahly)https://t.co/5muBOvr68k
Just like D'Agosto, Smouha SC won all their five games so far, and more importantly, they register a respectable tournament-high 91 points per game, including the FINAL FOUR's highest three-point shooting percentage at 45 per cent.
Meanwhile, D'Agosto's five wins in as many games have mainly resulted from a well-established defence game plan as well as the second-highest three-point average 34 per cent. So, the forecast is that it'll be raining three-points in the Angolan capital on Friday. Be ready!
Arguably, two of the best point guards in the competition, Smouha's James Justice Jr and Emmanuel Quezada emerge as two of the players to watch.
While James Jr. is rightly regarded as Smouha's heart and soul - averaging 18 points per game - Quezada leads all D'Agosto players with 16 points per game.
Both James Jr. and Quezada appear as two of the competitions top performers.
It's OVER! 🇦🇴 @clube1deagosto upset Hosts @petroatletico 70-57 in the first-leg of the #Elite8!— Africa Basketball League (@AfricaLeague) March 22, 2019
Manny Quezada gets a career-high 36 PTS 🔥🔥 & breaks the record for MOST points scored in a game!! #AfricaLeague
📊 Boxscore: https://t.co/zVxotn9JjQ pic.twitter.com/Esx5x7y9r6
Yet, that's not what impresses their coaches most.
"These are four strong teams, and any team can win it. Firstly, we have to respect Smouha's campaign. They haven’t played for over a month but they have fresh legs. Smouha is very good team, we respect them, but our objective is to win this competition. We have the players and experience to do that, and we will try our best,"Primeiro D'Agosto head coach Paulo Macedo explained during Thursday's press conference.
Asked if D'Agosto, who won eight African titles, feel the obligation to win the trophy again, the 1992 Olympian replied: "Yes," adding: "We always wanted to win every title but we lost in recent years. We’ll try very hard.
Smouha assistant coach Mohamed Rzek said: "We are happy to be among the best four teams in Africa. It means a big deal for us. Whoever wins the title Sunday, 'Good Luck'. Our players are focused on Friday's semifinal against D'Agosto, and we believe that we can do that.
"We must be at our best and prevent D'Agosto bigs from rebounding," Rzek emphasized.