19 October, 2021
19 December
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Fired-up Tigers knock-out Magic, to face Ferroviario da Beira in the first Semi-Final of BAL Elite 16


JOHANNESBURG (South Africa) - Cape Town Tigers marched to the Semi-Final of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) Elite 16 after delivering a knock-out blow to Group H1 Division East opponents and familiar foe Matero Magic at Wembley Stadium in Johannesburg on Thursday night.

The Tigers, who got the better of Matero in the Group Phase of the BAL qualifiers in October, delivered a near-perfect performance to triumph 79-63.

Another factor that benefitted the South Africans was the timely arrival of Congolese point guard Myck Kabongo. The former Ferroviario De Maputo player was the spark that ignited a Tigers team that had fallen Burundian upstarts, New Star, on Tuesday night in their opening game.

DR Congo international player Myck Kabongo featured for Ferroviario de Maputo in the inaugural BAL

The lively Kabongo, who replaced in Nigerian point guard Ben Uzoh, turned the Tigers offence into a cohesive unit. His impact was immediate as he was not afraid to charge at the Matero defence to create scoring opportunities for his teammates in this winner takes-all battle.

While the focus may have been on the energetic Kabongo, who finished the game with six points, his teammate Billy Preston, the leading scorer for the Tigers, stepped up with 21 points. The American center was a threat, with his ability to shoot from outside and using his large frame to attack in the paint.

Another player who had a big night was team captain Pieter Prinsloo, who seems to thrive in high-pressure situations. Prinsloo had a double-double (18 points and 10 rebounds), while Central African Republic international Evans Ganapamo rediscovered his form to deliver 19 points.

Pieter Prinsloo (Cape Town Tigers)

The Tigers matched their efficient attack by locking in at the defensive end. So tight was the Tigers defence, Matero, who suffered a heart-breaking defeat to New Star on Wednesday, could only score in single digits (26-7) at the end of the first quarter.

The host club put on a dominant display for the second and third quarters. By the end of the third, the Tigers looked comfortable with a 20-point lead (66-44).

In what was reminiscent of the two teams first encounter in the Zonal qualifiers, Tigers allowed the Matero to fight back, especially in the last quarter. The Zambians, who had gained entry to Elite 16 via a wild card, chipped away at the lead of the Tigers. Unfortunately, their spirited fightback was a little too late as the Tigers did enough to hold on for a 16-point victory.

Tigers assistant coach Vincent Ntunja, who was standing in for team coach Relton Booysen, was proud of his team's performance, especially when the chips were down.

"To be honest, this was the first time we played our style. It's something also told the players during the half-time break. It is what we have been working on in our practices. We have been winning games without having to play out style of basketball, so it puts us at ease that the work we put in is beginning to show," said the former South African international player.

In the Semi-Final, the Tigers will face Ferroviario Da Beira, a team whose path they crossed and bested them in the final game of the zonal qualifiers.

Ntunja encouraged his players to stay focused and not rest on their laurels ahead of the encounter on Friday. The winner of that Semi-Final will gain automatic entry into the second edition of the BAL.

"We have to keep grinding. There is no room for complacency because it will be tough against Beira. They play an organised brand of basketball. So we have to grind because we know what is at stake. We have a goal that we had set for ourselves, and slowly but surely, we will reach it," said Ntunja.

In Thursday's first game, Ferroviario Da Beira gained easy passage to the Last Four of the Elite 16, Division East, after a polished display in defeating the Ulinzi Warriors.

The Mozambican club powered to an 81-59 triumph, dominated all facets of the game. They denied the Kenyan team room to settle in defence and attacked with precision at the offensive end.

Big man Egidio Zandamela came off the bench to lead his team in scoring 17 points. Shooting guard Ismael Nurmamade, for the second time, delivered 14 points, while point guard William Perry contributed 11 points.

Beira coach Luis Hernandez was chuffed with how his team prepared and played to make it to the final four.

"We feel great. We are among the best for now. We did a good job the last couple of months to prepare ourselves for this moment. So, I am happy we will be playing in the Semi-Final tomorrow (Friday)," said the Beira coach.