Pro basketball teams shine at the NBA-backed BAL Kalahari Conference

South Africa hosted BAL matches for the first time as Fath Union Sport de Rabat emerged the top team in the Kalahari Conference, clinching a spot in the BAL playoffs in May, alongside second-placed Clube Atletico Petroleos de Luanda. Third-placed Cape Town Tigers will have to vie for a wildcard entry to the Kigali playoffs.

bird story agency

South Africa’s SunBet Arena in Pretoria successfully concluded the group stage matches of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) on Sunday (March 17) as the inaugural Kalahari Conference ignited fierce competition and provided electrifying hoop action.

Despite Burundi’s club Dynamo withdrawing from the competition, other conference matches went on as planned, with Morocco’s Fath Union Sport de Rabat emerging at the top of the conference, followed by Clube Atletico Petroleos de Luanda of Angola.

The two are automatic qualifiers for the BAL playoffs in May at the BK Arena in Kigali.

Home team, the Cape Town Tigers, finished in third place, meaning they’ll have to compete with third-placed teams from other conferences, for a spot in the playoffs.

The Tigers had launched their playoff aspirations in front of a sold-out arena, securing a crucial 82-78 win against Petro de Luanda, before going down 84-75 to FUS de Rabat in a much-anticipated final match of the conference on Sunday.

Notably, the win against the Luanda side was the Tigers’ first BAL win since May 2023. They had earlier in the season lost 100-88 to the same side, which made a win in Saturday’s (March 16) clash seem almost impossible.

Nevertheless, Billy Preston, who finished with 5 points in the 84-58 loss against FUS Rabat, rose to the occasion, leading the Tigers with a team-high of 20 points and 11 rebounds while Samkelo Cele added 17 points and Dylan Whitbread added three.

The South African champions finished with 50 rebounds against Petro de Luanda’s 45.

“This win means so much to us… We had our backs against the wall. We gave everything we had. This win was more than a win; it feels special,” said Tigers guard Ngor Manyang, who contributed 8 points, after the match.

“We stuck together. That was the most important part of the win,” the South Sudanese shooting guard added.

Competition for the top two sports was fierce, with Petro de Luanda on Friday (March 15), defeating FUS Rabat 89-86, with Childe Dundao scoring 25 points and Aboubakar Gakou adding 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Petro dominated throughout the first three quarters, with FUS’ 29 points in the last 10 minutes proving not enough to turn the tide. Conference leader FUS was led by Johnathan Jordan, who finished with 18 points, six rebounds and four assists.

The Saturday loss to the Tigers, however, cut short the Angolan side’s extreme ambitions, forcing them to settle for second place in the Conference.

The Kalahari Conference is a new addition to the League, with the fourth season of the BAL featuring an expanded number of top club teams from 12 African countries, playing a record 48 games.

Previously hosted in Cairo, Dakar, and Kigali, this season marks the first time that BAL games will be played in four different countries.

BAL action moves to the Hassan Mostafa Indoor Sports Complex in Cairo for Nile Conference group matches between April 19 and 27, before attention shifts to the Sahara Conference at the Dakar Arena from Saturday, May 4, to Sunday, May 12.

The 2024 playoffs and finals will take place at the BK Arena in Kigali, Rwanda, in late May, promising more thrills and unforgettable moments.

bird story agency