Basketball Africa League (BAL)

BAL Playoffs: Semifinals Day 1

Here's an in-depth recap of the Semifinal-round play in the BAL Playoffs.

US Monastir Takes Down Defending Champs, Zamalek

US Monastir gave themselves a second chance to compete for the Basketball Africa League (BAL) trophy after beating Zamalek in Wednesday’s second semifinal in Kigali.

Paced by Michael Dixon and Radhouane Slimane, Monastir knocked the BAL defending champions out, a team they to lost in the Final last year.

The 88-81 win ended Zamalek’s unbeaten run in the BAL.

The Egyptian outfit entered the game with a 6-0 mark this season and were the only team that had never tasted defeat in the history of the competition until Monastir halted that run.

Slimane led the way with a team-high of 21 points, Dixon added 20 points and Julius Coles Jr. contributed 19 points to help Monastir improve their current BAL record to 6-1.

“It’s good to get some revenge, but we expected to win. We feel like we can beat anybody, but, more importantly, we believed in ourselves,” Coles Jr. said afterwards.

After trailing by five at the break (40-35), Monastir used an aggressive defensive game plan that started to pay off early in the third quarter.

It didn’t take long before Dixon sank a jumper that gave Monastir their first lead (50-49) since the second quarter.

Dixon added another 2pt shot for a 52-49 lead, before Ike Diogu responded with a 3-pt that tied the game at 52-all.

Fearing another defeat to Zamalek, Slimane and Dixon combined for 16 points in the third quarter to help Monastir head to the final ten minutes with a 64-58 advantage.

Zamalek bench’s reaction when Dixon hit a mid-range jumper that sparked Monastir to a 70-60 lead – their largest lead in the game at that point – signalled frustration, despair and disbelief.

Even after Will Voigt called a timeout, Monastir showed no signs of slowing down as they extended their lead to 74-60 with six minutes left.

When Diabate buried a 3-pt shot with 4 minutes left (79-64), the game was technically over.

Zamalek’s leading scorer in the current BAL season, Edgar Sosa drilled two 3pts that cut the deficit to 79-70 with 2:51 left, but it was short-lived revival for the White Knights.

To make matters and undermine Zamalek’s hope of a comeback, DJ Strawberry fouled out with 2:51 minutes to play.

“The key was learning from last year,” said Monastir’s Ater Majok who finished 10 points and 9 rebounds.

“I have seen their mistakes, what they do well. For me, I was burning inside, especially for what happened last year. I said I need to get back. We don’t do revenge.”

Zamalek center Anas Mahmoud, who finished with 8 points and 9 rebounds, expressed his disappointment after the game.

“It feels bad, especially in a playoffs game,” the 2021 defensive player of the year said.

“We prepared the best way we could, but we did not execute the best we could. Execution to the game plan. We shot ourselves in the foot offensively. It continued to get worse as the game went on.”

With Zamalek’s unproductive bench – they were outscored 35-10 – Dixon, Slimane, Coles Jr. and Majok saved the day to change the course of the BAL history.

Mikhael McKinney finished with a game-high of 26 points off bench, but the game belonged to Zamalek.

With the win, Monastir are now set to meet Petro de Luanda in the final while Zamalek will face FAP in Friday’s Third-Place game.

Petro de Luanda beats FAP to Head to Finals

Childe Dundão, the shortest player in the Basketball Africa League (BAL) playoffs, was a giant on Wednesday as he sparked Petro de Luanda into the Finals.

The 5-foot-7 point guard did everything right to help Petro beat Forces Armées et Police (FAP) 88-74 and become the first team to reach the 2022 BAL Final.

Dundão had a 6-for-12 shooting, including three 3pts to finish with a game-high of 18 points; he dished out four assists, and added 3 steals to his account.

Jone Pedro came up with 14 points and 7 rebounds, Gerson Goncalves Lukeny contributed 13 points, and Yanick Moreira finished with 12 points and 9 rebounds off the bench.

It was Petro de Luanda’s third win over FAP in as many encounters over the last twelve months.

The Angolan champions stepped on the floor with a sense of urgency, but they missed their first three field-goals.

Joel Almeida opened the score with a 3pt, which turned out to be FAP’s first and only lead in the game.

Pedro’s tip-in cut the deficit to 3-2 before Carlos Morais drilled a 3-pt that gave Petro their first lead of the game (5-3).

Almeida’s floater tied it all at 5-5, but that the closest FAP could get to Petro as the Angolan outfit never trailed again.

The Angolan champions instilled a full-court press that resulted on successive FAP’s turnovers (6) by the end of the opening 10 minutes.

Then, Petro embarked on a 15-5 run (20-5) thanks to a combination of 3-pts from Childe Dundão (1) and Goncalves (2), which resulted in Petro’s biggest lead in the half.

Almeida, who scored FAP’s 8 points (20-8) in the opening quarter, converted on free-throw in the third quarter to finish with 9 points.

Petro headed to the locker room with a 46-35 lead.

The third quarter was a one-sided affair as Petro outscored FAP (23-12) to head to the final 10 minutes with a 69-47 lead.

Cedric Kenfack led FAP in scoring with 13 points off the bench, Brice Bidias, Charles Minlend Jr. added 12 points apiece, but their contribution wasn’t good enough to prevent Petro from improving their BAL record to 6-1 before the Championship Game.

“They move the ball very fast, and that made things difficult for us,” Kenfack said in the post-match press conference.

The 30-year-old who has faced the two-time African champions trice dating back to the inaugural BAL, went on saying: “Petro is a very good team that can execute well offensively. It’s always good playing against a great African team like Petro. For us, this has been a learning curve, and, hopefully, we’ll come back next year and try to beat these big teams in Africa.”

Moreira, who is making his BAL debut, acknowledged FAP’s tenacity.

“They are fighters. They have never allowed us to relax during the game. They are doing a great job. Hopefully they can win their next game.”

Moreira explained that Petro’s spot in the finals is highly significant for his country. “This win means a lot, not only for Petro de Luanda, but for basketball in Angola as a whole. It’s been a long time since we last had an Angolan team in the final of major competitions in Africa. This means that Angolan basketball isn’t outdated as some say. We just need to keep on working.”

Talking about Dundão, Moreira said: “Childe is our mascot. We can go as far as he can take us. When he has an inspiring night like this, we are safe.”Petro will face the winner of the semifinal between Zamalek and US Monastir on Saturday while FAP will go up against losing team on Friday.