The 2019 Varsity Basketball tournament got off to a flyer on Friday afternoon at the Wits Sports Hall.
The tournament in its second year running, sees hosts’ and defending champions Wits joined by 2018 runners-up UCT, neighbours UJ, UKZN, UP-Tuks and VUT from last year’s campaign. This year’s freshman are NWU and UWC, replacing Madibaz and TUT.
UJ GET THE BALL ROLLING
Round one action got off with newbies NWU taking on UJ, 2019 USSA champions and one of the favourites for this year’s tournament. UJ edged the first quarter 13-9. The second period saw a better defensive effort from UJ, who also used their counter attacks effectively, moving the ball rapidly to their attackers who racked up 25 points to the 10 of NWU. This saw the teams go into the break with NWU chasing a 19-point deficit, with the score at 38-19 to the Orange Army.
The third quarter saw NWU look to claw their way back but it was UJ, who were once more able to get the better of the men from North-West province. The final period of play was then thoroughly dominated by the Johannesburg outfit, who bagged a staggering 27 unanswered points, which saw them off to a great start, winning the dual 82-29. UJ’s Zett Mutongoza was named as the MVP of the game, thanks to his fine display on the court.
VUT STEAL CLASH VS UP-TUKS AT THE DEATH
Game two was a thrilling encounter between VUT and UP-Tuks, who both showed potential of being crowned champions in this year’s competition.
VUT, ultimately, were the victors in this one, narrrowly stealing it in the end from UP-Tuks 56-55.
The teams exchanged the lead often throughout play but it was after the third quarter, where VUT looked to come alive, with consistency often letting them down. A late flourish from UP-Tuks saw them all set to claim the victory in the fourth quarter because of their two-point lead.
VUT however had other ideas when, with 16 seconds left on clock, Yann Ekogha stepped up and threw a three-pointer to see his side claim the narrow victory.
UKZN WIN, BUT UWC SHOW POTENTIAL
UKZN opened their account at Varsity Basketball 2019 with a winning start courtesy of a 78-67 triumph over debutants UWC.
The first quarter was narrowly clinched by UWC, 20-17, who seemed very determined early on and not afraid to take on UKZN in the aerial duals.
UKZN, however, slowly got their rhythm, dominating the third and fourth quarter by slotting 46 points to UWC’s 32.
Thabo Sithole as a seasoned campaigner for UKZN was very instrumental, in seeing his side over the line, often seen very vocal to his teammates and always a dangerous player, whenever the UKZN attack surged forward. The final quarter saw a big effort from Varsity Basketball newcomers UWC, in keeping UKZN at bay.
In the end their efforts were, however, in vain as both sides gained 15 points apiece, in the final period, with UKZN going onto get their competition to a winning start. Sithole was named the MVP in the game but UWC proved that they could be a threat going into round two of fixtures on Saturday.
WITS SHOW THEIR WORTH
The final game of the opening day, was a replay of the 2018 final between hosts Wits and UCT. The result, unfortunately for the Capetonians, once again fell in favour of the Witsies – who claimed an emphatic 93-74 victory.
The game was played in front of a packed arena, with the majority of the support cheering on the hosts’ as they enjoyed a slender 21-14 lead after the first quarter. The Powerplay assisted Wits more than UCT, with the likes of Miguel Ferrao, Angelo Quinn and Briarly Klaasen often waiting in the wings to pounce on any UCT mistakes. Wits continued to dominate proceedings going into the break enjoying a 56-43 lead.
The third and fourth quarter saw a different UCT team take to the quarter, making less mistakes on and off the ball, which saw Wits starved of possession. UCT furthermore took more risks in attack, which fortunately paid off in keeping things tight. In the end it was a matter of a little too late, as the Witsies held off a UCT challenge to start their tournament, the same way it finished it in 2018.
Varsity Basketball tournament continues from 9:00 on Saturday at Wits Sports Hall, with games running from the morning right up until 9pm in the evening.
By S’fiso Nyawo