Basketball Africa League: Day 2 of Nile Conference tips off

The Basketball Africa League continues as FAP (Cameroon) takes on BC Espoir Fukash (Dem. Rep. of Congo)

Cape Town Tigers vs. Petro de Luanda

Theoretically Petro de Luanda are favourites to secure one of the four tickets available for Nile Conference teams for the Basketball Africa League (BAL) playoffs in May in Kigali, but the Angolan champions face a tough test when they take on BAL debutant Cape Town Tigers on Sunday in Cairo.

The South African champions are new to the African basketball scene, but they count on an intriguing starting line-up that can make them dream big.

Pieter Prinsloo, a 6-foot-10 center, who represented his native South Africa at 2017 AfroBasket, has made his name playing professionally in Europe and Latin America. He could be valuable for the Tigers in the painted area where Petro count on Jone Pedro and Yanick Moreira – two of Africa’s finest centers.

Jamel Artis, one of the three former NBA players in the Nile Conference, is expected to spark Cape Town at both ends of the floor, and both – Evan Ganapamo and Billy Preston – a duo that played a major role during the Road to BAL qualifiers, remains the Tigers’ engines.

With eight players from inaugural BAL season, Petro are on a familiar territory.

Except for Cape Verdean Anderson Correia and rookie Thierry Darlan from the Central African Republic, the core of former African champions Petro de Luanda have represented the Angolan national team at some point in their careers.

Petro has a productive bench, they have terrific shooters, they move the ball at high pace, but if Cape Town are to upset the Angolan champions their bench will desperately need to step up and contribute, and, more importantly, they need to able to protect the perimeter line.

“Our utmost goal is to win all five games here in Cairo, but we also know that these won’t be easy games,” said Abou Gakou in an exclusive interview with the bal.nba.com.

The 24-year-old who sat out the inaugural BAL season after testing positive for COVID a few days before the tournament, recalled the toughness of the BAL: “We made some unforgivable mistakes last year in Kigali, but this season we’re looking to make things better and fight for the title. We also know that we can’t underestimate anyone.”

Petro arrived in Cairo a week after beating local arch-rival and Africa’s most successful basketball club Primeiro de Agosto in the Angolan Cup final.

“We are a solid team and we are prepared to face whatever comes our way in the BAL,” Gakou added.

Meanwhile, Ganapamo noted that if they play at their best level “we have a good chance to shock a lot of people in this tournament,” the Central African Republic international player stressed.

“We are ready to play, and hopefully, things can go the way we prepared this team.”

Forces Armees et Police (FAP) vs. BC Espoir Fukash

Espoir Fukash’s joyful and attractive game didn’t last long, even with NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo cheering on them from the side-lines, the Congolese champions started their Basketball Africa League (BAL) Nile conference campaign with a 77-60 defeat against FAP on Sunday in Cairo.

It was Espoir Fukash’s third straight defeat against FAP in the last six months.

The game started more like a duel between Joel Almeida and Bobo Kasasa with the latter powering Espoir Fukash to a 24-18 lead at the end of the opening quarter.

Almeida was perfect in the first ten minutes, having made all his four three-point attempts to finish with 12 points.

Kasasa, on the other hand, was 4-for-5 from the field, including a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc to finish with 12 points, but he would score two more points for the remaining of the game.

Things looked to be going according to plan for Espoir Fukash, who trailed by six points early on, but took the lead thanks to an aggressive and suffocating defense, which forced FAP to turn the ball over eight times in the opening quarter.

At that moment of the game, Espoir Fukash’s aggressiveness on both ends of the floor started to pay dividends.

With Mutombo cheering on his countrymen for every positive action they did, Espoir Fukash stretched their lead by as many as 12 points, but somehow, they headed to the locker room with a slim 41-40 halftime lead.

Things looked totally different in the second half.

Morman Deshaun Lamar’s three-pointer early in the third quarter not only gave FAP their first lead since the first quarter (44-41), but it also sparked the Cameroonian champions to go on a 10-0 run, and they never trailed again.

Almeida scored 21 of his game-high 23 points from behind the arc, Lamar, the other FAP player to score in the double digits, contributed 13 points.

Lamar limped off the court after a collision with an opponent late in the third, and never returned.

“He has become of us. He is fully integrated in the team. Tonight, he won one final for us,” FAP head coach Francois Enyegue said of Almeida.

Lamar added: “He [Joel Almeida] actually gets me better in the gym. We compete shooting threes, twos. He definitely was feeling it tonight. He’s more of a veteran for us. We look to him to lead us throughout the game, and he did a good job tonight.”

Talking about his injury, Lamar said: “I tried to make a move, stepped on his foot, and it kind twisted a little bit. Ice for the rest the night, and we’ll see if I will be ready to go in the morning. But I don’t think it’s too serious, but I will be good and ready to go for the next couple of games.”

Kasasa led Espoir Fukash with 14 points, and Rolly Fula contributed 12.

“We should know better now. If we make many mistakes against a team like FAP it’s over,” Fula noted when discussing their 26 turnovers.

“We can’t make these many turnovers, and we need to communicate better during the game,” Fula acknowledged.

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