In the final groups game of the Basketball Africa League (BAL), Egyptian champions, Zamalek swept aside their north African fellows, Groupement Sportif des Pétroliers (GSP) of Algeria 97-64 to top the Group C.
Right from tip-off to the last buzzer, Zamalek was flying apart from the third quarter where they allowed GSP some breathing space to score a dozen points.
At the break, Zamalek was counting 54 points to GSP’s 27, in a largely one-sided game (Q1:37-16, Q2: 17-11, Q3: 14-24, and Q4: 29-13).
Zamalek’s dominance was evident that all 12 of their players played at least six minutes.
However, Zamalek head coach Agust Julbe didn't seem carried away by his team’s exploits.
“[Tonight] we had the worst defensive game in this tournament, considering that GSP missed two key players. We could have done better. But, in the end, it’s a success that we won three games, we moved on to the next stage, and, hopefully, we’ll keep winning games,” Julbe said.
GSP played without its two leading scorers, Mohamed Harat and Abdellah Hamdini. They fought hard, even going on a 6-0 mini-run in the third quarter.
GSP was led by Algerian international player Seddik Touati, who finished with a game-high 20 points. Hichem Benayad-Cherif scored 10 points and Merouane Bourkaid added 11 points for the five-time defending Algerian champions.
“I am happy for the win. We had only 18 turnovers today [after averaging 25.5 turnovers in the first two games]. That’s an improvement compared to our first two matches,” said Moustafa Mohamed Elmekawi in the post-game presser.
Outscoring its opponent 60-32 in the paint and in the fast-break (38-5) exemplified Zamalek’s sense of urgency in the game that eliminated GSP (0-3) from the BAL.
With the win, Zamalek advanced to the BAL quarterfinals as winners of Group C.
Tunisia’s US Monastir, Rwanda’s Patriots BBC, Morocco's AS Salé, Petro Atletico de Luanda of Angola, Ferroviario de Maputo of Mozambique and Egyptian champions Zamalek qualified automatically into the playoffs.
They were joined by Douanes (Senegal) and F.A.P (Cameroon) as the two best third-placed teams to make the last eight.
The home team, Patriots BBC, will face Mozambique’s Ferroviario de Maputo for the second time in the BAL, having previously locked horns in an intense game of the BAL Division East qualifiers, also played at Kigali Arena in Rwanda.
The Rwandan side will be looking to capitalise on the home advantage backed by a limited number of passionate home fans to push them to the last four of the BAL.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 26
F.A.P (7) vs. Zamalek (2) 11.30am EAT // 3.30pm GMT // 5.30pm CAT
A.S. Salé (6) vs. Atlético Petróleos de Luanda (3) 3pm EAT // 7pm GMT // 9pm CAT
THURSDAY, MAY 27
A.S. Douanes (8) vs. US Monastir (1) 11.30 am EAT // 3.30pm GMT // 5.30pm CAT
Ferroviário de Maputo (5) vs. Patriots B.B.C. (4) 3pm EAT // 7pm GMT // 9pm CAT
Two semi-finals games of the BAL will be played on Saturday, May 29 at 3pm EAT and 6.30pm EAT, respectively.
The third-place game and the final game of the BAL inaugural season will be played on Sunday, May 30 at 1.30pm EAT and 6pm EAT, respectively