Having needed a spirited late comeback to overhaul Tuks in the Varsity Basketball final, the overriding emotion in the UJ camp was relief.
After the game, won 64-57 by UJ, varsitysportssa.com caught up with their delighted head coach Mandla Ngema who shared his thoughts.
“I feel a weight off my shoulders, we were the favourites the whole year around, we are a fantastic team, we were dealt a tough hand when we had a lot of injuries that saw us lose some players we had in our USSA-winning squad. But everyone stepped up and I was proud of those that stepped in, especially Disase Gloire Kabange, who came in from our junior ranks. This also makes me proud because it means the ground work we’ve put in over the years in our whole system has worked well.”
With Tuks having managed to beat UJ in the round robin phase of the tournament, Ngema knew they would need a change in approach on Sunday.
“We were kind of passive in the first game, because we weren’t penetrating a whole lot, we settled for the outside long range shots that didn’t land on the day, which we never really switched. Even today we did something similar of shooting more, even though we weren’t landing our shots against a very disciplined Tuks team, who often punish you if you don’t use your chances. We however defended a lot better this time around and made it important to protect our play throughout the game.”
Ngema – who praised his opposing coach George Makena as being the best in the business – then concluded by thanking Varsity Sports for starting such a great tournament, that makes the difference in many people’s lives. He also went onto say, this tournament will really help to grow the sport nationwide, as it is already helping grow the talent of the future.
The MVP award was given to the Orange Army’s Lance Chikore, who always brought energy and explosiveness on the court while always being ready to assist in both defence and offence. The Civil Engineering student was rightfully pleased with his and his teammates’ efforts in a hard-fought encounter.
“This time Tuks brought it all to us as the USSA champions, but during our time outs, we spoke as a team that we needed to step up in the later stages of the game, otherwise they would hurt us again and fortunately things worked out well for us. The game was a very tough one, we really enjoyed coming out the other side as winners against a talented Tuks team.”
Throughout the tournament The UJ team wore a pink ribbon on their vests. Chikore explained the reasoning behind it before walking off to join his teammates in celebrating their triumph.
“The pink ribbons are there to really raise awareness of breast cancer, and just for an appeal that a lot more can and must be done about it. So we were also pushing the narrative that in sport and as men, we must also stand up and fight against breast cancer.”
By S’fiso Nyawo