Rwanda’s Patriots Basketball Club (BBC) defeated Nigeria’s Rivers Hoopers 83-60 in the first game of the historic inaugural Basketball Africa League (BAL) on Sunday.
Patriots, which started the game as underdogs, found themselves behind Rivers Hoopers by 9 points in the first 5 of the first quarter before the home side turned around the game towards the end of the first quarter against Nigerian basketball giants, Rivers Hoopers. The Rwandan side never looked back, winning subsequent quarters by some convincing margin of points.
Q1: Patriots 17: 18 Rivers Hoopers
Q2: Patriots 43-34 Rivers Hoopers
Q3: Patriots 65-44 Rivers Hoopers
Q4: Patriots 83-60 Rivers Hoopers
During a postgame presser, Rivers Hoopers’ Ben Uzoh, a former NBA Guard, said that his team will do “whatever it takes” to progress from a very difficult Group A, that features Tunisia’s US Monastir and the Malagasy basketball club, GNBC.
“Despite the results, I am very pleased with the inaugural BAL that is a source of inspiration and a dream global platform for the next African basketball stars,” Uzoh added.
For the Rwandan side, they are taking one step at a time, according to their star performer, Ndizeye Dieudonné.
“We worked hard for this victory. Playing in the BAL is a dream and we are staying grounded, taking one game at a time to see how far we can go,” Ndizeye said.
Hosted at the state of the art Kigali Arena, a 10,000 seater stadium, the BAL is the first-ever pan-African professional basketball bringing together 12 best clubs from across Africa for a month-long tournament that will decide the best basketball club on the continent, at least for the next year.
The BAL, a brainchild of the NBA-FIBA partnership, is a project that has been in the making for over 10 years, but a shortage of modern infrastructure, and then Covid-19, among other issues, delayed the inaugural season.
The season was initially scheduled for March 2020 in Senegal’s capital Dakar, but it was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was then scheduled to be held at Rwanda’s capital Kigali.
The BAL is being held under strict health guidelines with players having limited external contacts.
While speaking at the opening ceremony of the Basketball Africa League, BAL President Amadou Gallo Fall described the moment as “an incredible feeling.”
He added that the BAL was “making history.”
“The BAL is a culmination of decades of work that is now delivering a complete pathway for basketball development from grassroots to elite. From this day forward young players from the African continent can start and finish their development curve without having to leave Africa,” Mr Fall said.
Millions of people from at least 215 countries across the globe tuned in to follow the first-ever game of the BAL, according to figures from officials.