Former NBA player Ben Uzoh became the first player to score in the newly formed Basketball Africa League (BAL) (www.theBAL.com), but the historic game belonged to the host of the Patriots Basketball Club of Rwanda who beat Nigeria Rivers Hoopers 83-60 on Sunday at Kigali Arena.
While the Hoopers had a promising start, they struggled to adjust to the Patriots’ aggressive defense.
And spinning the ball more than 20 times didn’t help.
Wilson Nshobozwabyosenumukiza, who came off the bench, and Prince Ibeh led the Patriots’ comeback, and the Nigerians found no answer.
And to make matters worse for the Hoopers, they got into trouble early in the second quarter, and things have never been the same.
Nshobozwabyosenumukiza, who set a record for most thefts in a single game in the FIBA AfroBasket qualifiers in February, proved crucial on the defensive end on Sunday, making the Hoopers look helpless.
Trailing 18-17 at the end of the first quarter, Ibeh thought it was time to turn things around.
Ibeh’s two thunderous dunks early in the second quarter set the Patriots on fire to a 13-0 run as the hosts took absolute control of the game, and they never looked back, leading at one point 29 points .
Costner Brandon led all scorers with 20 points and Ibeh contributed 11 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocked shots in the winning cause.
Patriots goaltender Kenneth Gasana, who contributed seven points and four assists, paid tribute to his team.
“We played well on the inside, we limited a lot of points on the inside and we took advantage of the turnover they had,” said the Rwanda international, adding that “it feels good to start the BAL with a win. “
Speaking of Ibeh’s performance, Gasana added: “He’s a beast, I loved the way he played. He really protected the painting.
Taren Sullivan did a bit of everything while trying to keep the Rivers in the game, but his 15 points, his team’s top, were not good enough to avoid defeat for the Nigerians.
In his professional basketball debut, Jermaine Cole scored three points, with two assists and three rebounds.
The Patriots resume their campaign in Group A on Tuesday against GNBC Madagascar, a team they beat twice in the BAL qualifiers.
Meanwhile, the Hoopers return to action on Wednesday against Tunisian American champion Monastir.
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