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KPA seal play-off final berth as Ulinzi hold back Thunder

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By CAXTON APOLLO
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By CHRIS OMOLLO
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Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) kept their title defence alive after beating Strathmore University’s Blades 54-50 in the Kenya Basketball Federation men’s Premier League play-offs semi-final Game Four on Sunday at the Makande Gymnasium to qualify for the final on a 3-1 basis.

The Dockers, who settled for a 1-1 tie in the best-of-five-series last weekend, made home advantage count as they won Game Three 66-44 on Saturday before confirming their place in the final with the slim win in Game Four.

Sammy Kiki’s charges will now face the winner between Ulinzi Warriors and Thunder in the final.

On Sunday, Ulinzi Warriors revived their hopes of qualifying for the final after registering a convincing 98-65 victory over Thunder in the semi-final Game Four at Nyayo National Stadium Gymnasium.

The win saw Ulinzi, who missed last year’s final, lock the best-of-five series 2-2 after winning Game Three 93-91 on Saturday. The two sides will now clash on Monday in the decisive Game Five at the same venue from 7pm to determine who proceeds to the final.

The Soldiers came all guns blazing to hit Thunder 22-14 at the end of the first quarter. Thunder, who only needed to win Game Three to qualify for their first play-off final, were unable to contain Ulinzi’s shooting guard Eric Mutoro, forwards William Ochieng’ and John Washika. The trio impressed as Ulinzi led 37-31 at the breather.

Thunder’s top guns Griffins Ligare, Kevin Chogo and Faheem Juma struggled to settle into the match and Ulinzi capitalised to open a 20-point gap at the end of the third quarter where they led 70-50.

Ulinzi coach William Balozi pulled out his starting five led by Mutoro, Ben Mfutu and Ochieng’ leaving Joshua Okumu to wow the fans with his superb dunks. After Ulinzi went up 92-62 with a huge 30 points difference, their opponents gave up the fight for a final score of 98-65.

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Joseph Owino scored game-high 25 points for Ulinzi, William Ochieng sunk 22, Eric Mutoro 16 while John Washika had 15.

Thunder, who will have to change tact in Game Five, replied with 17 points from Kevin Chogo, Faheem Juma 12 while Griffins Ligare managed 10.

Ulinzi team manager Stephen Bartilol said: “Our only threat was Thunder and after battling from two matches down to lock the series 2-2, this has given us moral to win Game Five and qualify for the play-offs final.”

Thunder coach Sadat Gaya admitted his side was second best on the day.

“Ulinzi Warriors played a great game and they deserved to win. We have not given up with another chance of bouncing back in Game Five,” said Sadat.

In the men’s Division One League play-offs semi-finals, Emyba qualified for the final after beating Terrorists 80-65 in Game Four. Emyba qualified on a 3-1 basis after Terrorists had won Game Three 75-68 on Saturday.

Eric Olum scored 15 points while Fredrick Odongo sunk 11 for Emyba who will meet Eldonets in the final.

In the men’s Division Two League play-offs semi-finals, Blazers eliminated Little Prince 3-1 after winning Game Four 58-57. Farah Eden scored 10 points and Joe Koech 16 for Blazers, who battled from behind 28-23 at half-time to win.

Kenya Airports Authority also booked a ticket to the final when they rocked Riara University 58-56 in Game Four. KAA qualified on a 3-1 basis after having won Game Three 54-43 on Saturday.

In the men’s Division One League play-offs semi-finals, University of Nairobi’s Dynamites knocked out Strathmore University 3-0 in the best-of-five series. Africa Nazarene University also qualified for the final with a 20-0 walk-over against Lady Bucks who failed to honour the fixture.

KPA 54 Blades 50, Ulinzi Warriors 98 Thunder 65, Emyba 80 Terrorists 65, Blazers 58 Little Prince 57, KAA 58 Riara University 56, ANU 20 Lady Bucks 0.

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