The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Falcons One Game Away From the Finals

Ahead of tonight's Game 4 in the Airtel Fuba League semifinal playoffs between Blue Cube Falcons and KIU Titans in the, the former can wrap up the best-of-five series with a win, writes Felix Eupal.

It's been a long wait for Falcons to be in this position. For a six-time champion, it's sounds odd that the most successful club in Ugandan basketball has failed to make the finals in the past four years. In that period, Falcons has tried all sorts of formations and personnel with little success.

The bubble burst in 2009 when club legend Stephen Omony acrimoniously left citing Falcons' failure to honour his contract. Shortly thereafter, several stars like Malinga brothers Henry and Eric as well as the dependable Francis Tumusiime followed suit and the club's failings were laid bare when Falcons failed to make the playoffs final for the first time in five years.

Coupled with the demise of club founder John Simbwa, Falcons reached a nadir last season when they narrowly avoided relegation to the second tier. From then onwards, the club management went back to the drawing board and recalled the influential 'prodigal sons.'

However, the appointment of untested Tony Oluka as head coach was welcomed with mixed feeling given the fact that his assistant Gad Eteu had led the team to the 2007 championship. Put simply, many feared for a poor working relationship.

Then came the pre-season shopping spree that brought back 'lost sheep' like Omony, Tumusime, Brian Sentongo, Douglas Uwizera and Edwin Katerega. All they needed was a cherry on the cake and Jeff Omondi did just that. Yet, the team has proved doubters wrong with a telepathic understanding that yielded 14 straight wins in the regular season. In all, they lost only four games.

That said, Falcons has been anything but their awesome best in the post season. For a team that scored at will, they have transformed to winning ugly. Of course, it's hard to blame anyone when a team is winning but it's clear they have put results ahead of style, which is understandable in the wake of early elimination of defending champions Dmark Power.

Falcons have depth, maturity and individual brilliance when the going gets tough. Most of all, they have the belief and desire. On the other hand a lot needs to be changed about their play if one is to go by their three semifinal ties.

Falcons have averaged 42.3 rebounds, attempted only 44 three point field goals with a conversion rate of 25 %. They have also not been that good on the charity line; where they've only converted 34% of the 47 free throws.

For any other team, this would be disastrous but for Falcons, they have somehow found a way of winning. And much as KIU may want to extend the series to a decider, Falcons have it within themselves to rise to the occasion if need arises.

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