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BNL finals 2013: Old school vs new school

By on December 16, 2013 in BNL

by Manyehlisa Lehohla

630 x 300 BNL 1Today marks a crowning moment for South African basketball for two reasons. For starters it is the coming of age of a sport that had been in the doldrums in the sporting landscape, when the league concludes its first season since its launch in October.

Second, two teams – the Tshwane Suns and the Mbombela Wildcats – will do battle at the Wembley Arena in Joburg to be crowned kings of the inaugural season of the Basketball National League (BNL) in what is expected be a hotly contested final.

The match will dish up contrasting battles that are certain to wet even the palate of neutral supporters of the game. Both teams are coached by students of the game and brilliant strategists. George Makena, 50, has been involved in the game for 23 years and has coached the University of Pretoria and Tshwane University of Technology, while it was still called Pretoria Technikon. He has also coached the South African national women’s team and the South African students team.

Wildcats coach Mlungisi Ngwenya, 37, is much younger than his Suns counterpart, but is not short of experience in the coaching arena. Ngwenya, who is been involved in basketball for two decades, cut his teeth as a player for the Vaal University Technology during the early 2000s – before the formation of the league. Like Makena, he has also coached at national team level, having led the South African men’s team to two Afrobasket Championships in 2009 (Libya) and 2011 (Madagascar).

Given the two men’s coaching history it is quite a fitting tribute to their basketball acumen that their two teams are contesting today’s final. But Ngwenya’s team might hold the psychological edge going into today’s final having had the better of Makena’s Suns in their two regular season encounters.

But Ngwenya doesn’t see it that way – that his team has the proverbial psychological edge.

He feels both team are on equal footing since they both made it to the final.

Ngwenya also paid homage to veteran coach Makeba whom he regards as a mentor.

“That guy (Makena) is my boss, I still look up to him and have the utmost respect for him. I constantly learn from him,” said Ngwenya who feels today’s final will see two evenly matched sides going toe-to-toe.

“Absolutely we will be evenly matched. There will be two well coached teams going up against each other.

“The games that we won against them do not matter anymore as it will be a different ball game altogether.

“The regular season games are just used for making adjustments ahead of the play-offs,” said Ngwenya whose team had to overcome the KwaZulu-Natal Marlins 74-72 in overtime on Saturday to earn their spot in the final.

Suns point guard Tichifara Mabiza talked up his team’s chances going into the grand finale of the basketball season following his team’s great third quarter fightback from 20 points down against the then undefeated Soweto Panthers, also played on Saturday.

“I think we have the edge going into the final. The second game we played against them (Wildcats) in the regular season was close and it went down to just scoring, but now we know what to do in close games,” said Mabiza reflecting on their one point defeat against the Wildcats.

Touching on their eventual 10-point semifinal victory (84-74) over the Panthers, the 27-year-old Mabiza believed it was the words of their coach that led them to conquer what looked like a huge mountain to climb against the Soweto team.

“The coach reminded that we have gone through this kind of adversity before. We know what it is like to fall short, so we took one possession at a time and managed to outscore them 32-2. We also put up a good defensive effort,” said Mabiza off their inspired victory over the Panthers.

Mabiza and Ngwenya both agreed that defence will decide the winner of the final today.

“In my opinion it will be the two best defensive sides contesting the final. Both teams will be riding on their defences to win the game,” said the Mabiza, a University of Pretoria student.

“Of course defence will decide the outcome of the game. Offence may win you games, but defence wins you championships,” said Ngwenya.

The scene has been set for a tantalising final. It will be two well coached teams who overcame great odds to get to the BNL final.

And while there will be only one winner on the court, the ultimate winner will also be South African basketball fraternity who have endured a long wait for the rebirth of basketball in the country.

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  1. Sandra says:

    Wow what a game!! Enjoyed it so much.Well done to the Suns!!!! And to Neo Matheba,+27847539743 good game…we proud of you …you deserve it…..well done!!! I LoVE the GAME!!!!+27847539743

  2. Gordon says:

    I think Upto so far the suns is the best team in the bank if you can’t beat us come join us. (Suns no1 fan)