19 October, 2021
19 December
11 Kenny Gasana (NSF)
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Gasana steps up at clutch time as Burundi's New Star improve to 2-0

JOHANNESBURG (South Africa) - Burundi's New Star had to dig deep to clinch victory over Zambia's Matero Magic in an Elite 16 Group H1 encounter at Wembley Stadium in Johannesburg on Wednesday night.

Rwandan veteran player and shooting guard Kenny Gasana put on a clutch shooting masterclass in a wild fourth quarter that saw the East African's prevail 78-70 over the Magic.


Gasana landed 28 points in a match where he and his teammates were visibly exhausted following their surprise victory over the Cape Town Tigers on Tuesday night.

With a thin bench, the Burundian club did well to keep themselves in the battle in the first three quarters and were in touching distance with the score at 55-53 and the end of the third.

Matero were the fresher of the two teams and had the lead (66-63) with 2:27 minutes left on the clock in the fourth. The pendulum then swung in favour of New Star when Spanish small forward Alvaro Masa, who struggled offensively for most of the game, landed a clutch three-pointer to tie the game.

Gasana, who was 6-of-13 from behind the arc, twice found himself in space to land two killer three-pointers that sparked wild celebration and saw New Star pull away and secure the six-point victory.

New Star had three other players score in double figures: Landry Ndikumana, who had a double-double, quietly grinded for his 14 points and 19 rebounds, while young, explosive point guard Guibert Nijimbere, who played without fear of the opposition's defence, scored 15 points. Masa, who found his scoring touch when it mattered most, had 14 points.

Matero's top scorers were American signing Jaylen Leroy, who had 14 points and Sylvester Samungumbe, who contributed 10 points.

The victory for New Star means they qualify for the Semi-Final and continue their dream of trying to nail a spot in the second edition of the Basketball Africa League (BAL).

Landry Ndikumana, seen here in action in the first round in October, set a new BAL Qualifiers record with his 19 rebounds  

On his performance, especially in the clutch situation, Gasana said he regularly works on his shooting, and that's why he was able to deliver at that critical stage.

"For me, I trust the process. I shoot those shots all the time, so in-game situations, it comes easy," said the Rwandan international, who appreciates the opportunity to help New Star on this journey. "I am honoured that they would have me. They have battled to get to this point. I want to do my part to get them over the top."

Meanwhile, the first match saw an exciting East African battle in Group H2. South Sudanese club Cobra Sport, who lost the opening game on Tuesday, made amends by defeating Kenya's Ulinzi Warriors 77-67 to better their chances of making it out of the Group Phase.

Cobra's new recruits from Rwandan club Patriots, shooting guard Dieudonne Ndizeye and forward Tom Wamukota, proved to be lynchpins as they carried the bulk of the scoring.

Rwandan international Dieudonne Ndayisaba Ndizeye was 7-of-14 from beyond the arc

Ndizeye had a hot hand from behind the arc, making 50 percent of his seven three-pointers, as he led the scoring with 32 points. Wamukota had an extra impetus to step up his game as he came up against his compatriots and some Kenya Morans teammates within the Ulinzi set-up. The centre naturally rose to the occasion as he dropped 21 points and crashed 11 boards.

The Kenyans were no slouches as they competed with their taller opponents and even out-rebounded Cobras 52-46. Ulinzi were also in the contest until the third quarter and were behind by five points (57-52) at the end.

Ulinzi's shooting guard and captain Erick Mutoro led his team with 17 points, and he was by three other teammates, who scored in double figures. William Otieno (15pts), Tiberous Menya (12pts) and  Phillip Bwire (11pts) all helped Mutoro carry the scoring load.

Erick Mutoro led Ulinzi Warriors with 17 points 

Unfortunately for Ulizni, Cobra's offence packed a punch in the fourth quarter and saw the South Sudanese club battle their way to a 10 point victory.

Wamukota, who played in the inaugural BAL tournament along with Ndizeye, felt his team made a marked improvement from their opening loss to Ferroviario da Beira.

"Coming into today's game, we said to ourselves we want to play our own game. We did not want the opposition to dictate terms to us. We did the things we are used to, and things fell into place," said the big center, who also reflected on playing against his compatriots. "We are good friends, but when we get on the court, we have to compete for the name on our vests."