Ferroviario da Beira to up their guard against slippery City Oilers
JOHANNESBURG (South Africa) - This time last year, during the Road to BAL Elite 16 qualifiers, Ferroviario da Beira forward Austin Mofonanya could only sit by and watch as his team qualified for this year's BAL tournament.
The Nigerian forward could not participate in South Africa last year because of issues with his paperwork.
Fast forward to this year's tournament, Mofonanya spoke about his disappointment in missing out on last year's qualifiers.
"It was hard having to sit on the bench and watch the team qualify. We won every game, but it would have been great to help contribute to the team's qualification run. I wanted to be part of it," said 28-year-old on Wednesday at the Ellis Park Arena, where Beira defeated Madascar club COSPN in a Group B Elite 16 qualifier.
While Beira participated in the BAL Season 2 early this year, Mofonanya pursued his playing career elsewhere, but he also kept a close eye on the Mozambican club's progress at the tournament.
"Luckily, I got another playing opportunity in Asia, but I followed them (Beira) during the BAL. I cheered them on. Now it feels good to be part of the team again and compete to qualify for the best league on the continent," said Mofonanya, who played for Bumi Borneo in Indonesia.
Beira again have another crack at qualifying for their second BAL. The Mozambican club are in South Africa and find themselves 2-0 in their Group B Elite 16 qualifying campaign. This time Mofonanya has the opportunity to play a contributing role.
He dropped 13 points in Beira's clinical 84-53 dismantling of COSPN. It was a game in which the Mozambican club needed to make a strong statement after they struggled in their victory (63-57) over Zambia's Matero Magic on Tuesday.
"We feel good and want to advance next round and then qualify for the BAL. Today (against COSPN), we needed to focus on our defence and making better shot selection," said Mofonanya.
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Against COSPN, Beira got into a comfortable lead that they employed the second unit for most of the game. Mofonanya was impressed with how they performed and felt it gave the starters necessary rest.
"They played well and it gave the first unit some rest. Will and Michael (Murray) played a lot of minutes. Three games in three days is heavy. The fact our second unit could stay longer and handle the other team is better for the starters and ourselves as a team. It means we will be ready for tomorrow.
The 1,98m (6ft 6in) forward felt in the game against Matero, they did well to stay the course and luckily, point guard Will Perry, who had 24 points, scored a crucial bucket that saw Beira get the win.
"Basketball is a game of runs, and Matero had their moments. We had to keep playing and grind it out. Will hit a really tough shot that put us up by four with a minute left. It bailed us out, and we finished out stronger," said Mofonanya.
Beira have one more game on Thursday against Uganda's City Oilers, who would have played the Magic on Wednesday. Mofonanya says they are ready for whatever the East Africans will throw at them.
"We expect them to come out firing against us, and they will probably want to punch us in the mouth. But we are here for the fight," said the barrel-chested Mofonanyana. "I believe in my team. I believe we can qualify. We have to take it one game at a time. Right now, our focus is on the next team, and then we can talk about the semi-finals."
Beira have one foot in the Semi-Finals, and they will be cautious not to slip up against the Oilers, who could pack a punch. As Mofonanya intimated, they are ready for any potential sneak attack.