03 October, 2023
26 November
55 James Marquis Alvarez Westbrook (ABC), 99 Kendall Gray (BSC)
30/10/2023
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Fierce competition in Yaounde for 3 BAL tickets

 

YAOUNDE (Cameroon) - The Basketball Africa League (BAL) West Division Elite 16 battle is finally upon us and seven teams will slug it out for three tickets to get to the BAL Season 4.

To determine which teams get the three tickets at stake, the seven teams left - following the withdrawal of Stade Malien - will have to be at their best in the battle of who moves on.

The West Division is divided into Groups A and B and will run from Tuesday, 31 October to Sunday, 5 November in the Cameroonian capital of Yaounde.  

With Stade Malien out of the way, Forces Armees et Police (FAP) of Cameroon, a star-studded Al Ahly Benghazi of Libya and DR Congo's BC Virunga in Group A will go on as scheduled while in Group B, the supremacy battle will be between Bangui Sporting Club (Central African Republic), ABC Fighters (Cote d'Ivoire), Morocco's  FUS Rabat and Seydou Legacy Athletique Club (SLAC) from  Guinea.

WATCH THE WEST DIVISION ELITE 16 ACTION  

While not picking any team as favorites, the games look tricky and dicey to call.

GROUP A

FAP came close to reaching the BAL 2023 regular season but fell short. The Cameroon National Police-funded team slumped in the Elite 16 round and will try everything they possibly can to right the wrongs in front of their fans at the Palais des Sports, Yaounde.

F.A.P

Though playing at home may just add to the pressures on the team, they seem ready to forge ahead and take it game by game to reach their goal of securing one of the three available tickets.

Al Ahly Benghazi are coming into their first Elite 16 outing brimming with fire and having made some of the most impressive signings so far to make them a team to watch out for in Yaounde. 

The signings of BAL winners Ater Majok and Souleyman Diabate, two of the continent's standout players no doubt says it all of Al Ahly Benghazi's ambitions in the Elite 16.

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Added to the signings of Majok and Diabate, the arrival of Zach Lofton, Perry Petty, Nick Stover and Chris Crawford - a two-time BAL runner-up with US Monastir and AS Douanes - makes Al Ahly Benghazi one of the most talked about teams here in Yaounde.

Majok, the 2022 BAL Defensive Player of the Year is a tower of power on both ends of the floor and a regular in the tournament.

Wild card entrant, BC Virunga understand that a second chance is what they need to make amends for their Group stage performance that left them with a 1-2 record.

BC Virunga

There is so much for them to play for in this stage of the qualifiers as they have nothing to fear. They can turn out to be the surprise pack if they put their acts together.

In their first international appearance, BC Virunga will attempt to become the second DR Congo team - after Espoir Fukash - to qualify for the prestigious Elite 16 of the BAL.

However, to achieve that goal, they must conquer a very familiar face in Group B: FAP, a team they had fallen to earlier in the qualifier, and must also strive to pull strings against Al Ahly Benghazi. The DR Congo champions will need to be hungrier for wins if they are to make it out of the group.

GROUP B

The Central Africa Republic champions Bangui Sporting Club head into this group with tales of unfinished work.

They are faced with familiar foes in ABC Fighters and SLAC, two teams they encountered at the Elite 16 Stage in Abidjan last year.

The last time ABC and SLAC faced each other last year, the Ivorian champions prevailed 81-70

While they took a 72-67 win over ABC, they fell to SLAC and the journey ended abruptly. That certainly will not be the case this time around as they look set to ensure that they are in perfect condition for the battle ahead.

With a crop of experienced players in the likes of Evans Ganampamo, Max Kouguere, Jimmy Djimrabaye, the team can be rest assured that they will make an impact. In addition to the experiences of the three key players, they also have two-time BAL quarterfinalist Liz Mills calling the shots. She has Ulrich Marida and Jeff Sparrow as her assistant coaches.

Bangui Sporting Club 

The name ABC Fighters of Abidjan instills fear in the opposition going by the team's spectacular performance last season.

Not many have forgotten their thrilling encounter Petro de Luanda of Angola in last season's quarter-finals game that left many fans at the Kigali Arena on the edge of their seats. Though that game ended 88-84 in favor of the Angolan side, the ABC Fighters had made a huge statement.

The barriers in the Group B Elite 16 West Division contest are FUS Rabat, SLAC and Bangui Sporting Club and their respectable Swiss tactician is Nikolic Milutin.

Yes, the team has tall ambitions of lifting the BAL trophy just like any other side in the tournament but this means that they have to block all the holes in their way and must ensure that they achieve success.

 

Morocco champions FUS Rabat have little to worry about when it concerns experience. For instance, they kept Abdelhakim Zouita, who won the MVP award of the 2023 Morocco League Finals. Zouita, a well-known player on the continent of Africa, but who is yet to feature in the BAL, averaged 17.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in the League Finals.

They will attempt to reach the BAL for the very first time in the club's history, the Rabat-based team made some major adjustments to its roster.

The man charged with the task is coach Said El Bouzidi who has been a success story on the African continent and will bring his wealth of experience to bear.

If there is one team that has undergone a lot of transformation, then it is SLAC. To boost the team's chances, the Conakry-base side engaged former Cote d'Ivoire national team coach Paolo Povia to turn their fortunes around. He brings 25 years of coaching experience with him and to propel the side, he will not have his players underrate their opponents but respect them by giving a good account on the court.

FIBA