It was touted as potentially the biggest game of the tournament since the tournament tipped off and on Saturday evening, we were blessed.
The 3-0 Eko Kings went up against the 2-0 Yaounde Giants, both teams unbeaten in the tournament so far, both playing the best basketball and both possessing 2 of the top 3 point guards in the Continental Basketball League. It was to be a battle of the elite.
Coming into the game, the Yaounde Giants had gone through the other two Lagos based teams, blowing out the Lagos Warriors by 38 points and defeating the Lagos City Stars by 8 points but they would have known they would have to play at their best possible level to get past the Eko Kings who had easily defeated the Lagos Warriors, the Abidjan Raiders and the Izobe Libreville Dragons by 16, 10 and 9 points respectively.
The game started and you would have been forgiven for thinking it’ll be a shootout with threes flying in from all corners of the court given the capabilities of both teams set of players, instead, we witnessed top quality defence from both teams most notably the Eko Kings. The Kings absolutely shut down the star Giants point guard, Lanerryl Esters in the first half. Everytime he had the ball in his hands, he had no space to breathe. Kings coach Bakare Ayo had a plan and it worked perfectly.
The Kings were probably helped by the fact that the supporting cast of the Yaounde Giants couldn’t hit their shots either. Giants star forward, Ian Carter started the game playing Centre, I don’t know if this was a move by the coach to stretch the floor but it wasn’t working because Carter as well was surprisingly cold all game. Carter finished the game with 9 points, 8 of which came in the second half of the game.
Thierry Bogmis chipped in with 13 points and Kome Arnold, who i feel was one of the best players in the game finished with 15 points. Esters finally found his form and his confidence in the second half as he finished the game with 22 points, 19 of which came in the second half sadly it wasn’t enough.
The Eko Kings played possibly their best game yet against their toughest opponent yet. First of all, Mark Hill is so good, I watched the game live with a couple of friends and immediately he stepped on the court, someone said “When did Isaiah Thomas tart playing for the Kings”. After the first quarter, i could see the similarities.
He was the star of the game and his 29 points was a major factor in the win. Unlike the Giants, the Kings and Hill got capable from his teammates as Tom Bush Wamukota and Thomas George hit 23 and 20 points respectively.
Also, Mohammed Ewida came up with a big defensive game for the Kings, he might have scored just 2 points but he owned the boards on both ends of the court, his defensive work was massive in the win. At some point he was in a 3 against 1 fast break situation and he won that battle against 3 Giants.
It was a great game and it ended 83 – 76 in favor of the Eko Kings who are now 4-0. The Continental Basketball League is in Yaounde now and will be back in Lagos for All Star weekend which starts on Saturday. I expect to see most of these players in the All Star Teams when the teams are announced as well as the dunk contest.
If you’ve been missing the games at #CBLAfrica , you can still make up with this weekend.