Local basketball powerhouse Espoir Basketball Club has claimed the title of best in the region, thumping next-door rival Urunani BBC of Burundi by a 51-point difference in the men’s final at the just concluded Zone 5 Club Championships held in Uganda.
The final score of 90-39 would understandably illicit doubts from the reader of whether it’s a typing error, but indeed the score stood firm at the end of hostilities, meaning a first regional title for the storied franchise, and the double satisfaction of smooth revenge exacted as Urunani had earlier defeated Espoir in pool play, 68-66.
The only Rwandan representative in the tourney, Espoir stated its intentions early with an opening-day win over tourney favorites Kyambogo Warrior of Uganda, 72-56, leading throughout. Next up was Tanzania’s Savio, which also succumbed to a 90-51 beat-down, before Espoir lost its only game of the tournament, the aforementioned loss to Urunani by just 2 points.
Instead of demoralizing Espoir, which is a French word meaning ‘hope,’ the loss served to galvanize the Rwandan flag-bearers. Having secured qualification for the knock-out round despite the Urunani loss, Espoir stampeded its way to the title in dominant fashion, knocking out reigning league champions of Uganda, Power 67-54 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score suggests, to set up a final clash with their bitter rivals from neighboring Burundi.
The final was anything but a contest however, as Espoir totally ran Urunani off the court, leading by 20 points by the half-time break, and extending that lead into official blow-out territory by the game’s final whistle.
Jubilation ensued as Espoir celebrated their coup, marking the first time a Rwandan side has taken the title since army-side APR triumphed in 2008, successfully defending the title they won in 2007 and 2002.
As icing on the cake, Espoir’s outstanding player Aristide Mugabe was named tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP), having pumped in 26 points in the final to help his side to victory, besides an equally impressive performance from longtime Espoir player Jean Louis Habineza’s 24 points.
In the Women’s Final, Eagle Wings emerged winners in an all-Kenyan affair, beating compatriots Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) 77-54.