The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: USIU Steal Show

Co-operative Bank of Kenya and Eagle Wings may have retained their national league but United States International University (USIU) teams Performance was the highlight of the season.

The Cinderella run of USIU teams that caught many by surprise. That the Tigers and the Flames, as the institutions sides are fondly referred to, made it all the way to the play-off finals, was a huge achievement.

It was pure class from the regular season all the way as Hilda Indasi, the irrepressible and indefatigable guard propelled Flames to only their second women's finals. High flying Evans Letting carried the Tigers solely on his lean shoulders to the finals.

The USIU men and women's teams fell to the eventual league winners Co-operative Bank and Wings. However, the eventual champions did not have it easy in the play-off best of three finals. USIU put up a real dog fight all the way to the final buzzer with the students giving as much as they received.

The bankers emerged 2-1 winners in the series matches at the Nyayo I Stadium gymnasium (71-79, 72-63 and 71-60) while Wings shut out a determined USIU (67-62 and 58-55).

Co-op bundled out rivals KCB Lions 2-1 in a smart come from behind rally while Tigers went to Mombasa--one of the toughest hunting grounds for the visiting teams--and knocked out Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) 2-0. It was Co-op Bank's third title in a row and seventh overall having also won in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998. 2010 and 2011.

Flames succumbed to Wings 2-1 (58-55 and 67-62) in one of the tightest and fiercely contested play off matches in the history of the play-offs. It was their second trip to the finals since 2007. Wings had also won in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

En-route to the finals, Wings also locked out KPA (56-49 and 60-53) with Flames extinguishing Co-op Bank (57-55 and 52-49) in the other semi-finals.

Indasi and Okwako Halwenge of Co-op Bank were named the Most Valuable Players (MVP) in the women and men's categories respectively. Evelyne Nora of Wings and USIU's Kevin Kigotho bagged the Best Defensive Player (BDP) honours.

KCB, who had lost only one game in an impressive season before being choked in the semis, were placed third after thumping of KPA 88-69 in the men's category. KPA women also nipped Co-op Bank 36-31 in a low scoring tie to finish third.

Nairobi Aviation College (NAC) beat Nakuru Club 2-1 (97-55) to lift the lower division title. The two teams as well got the nod rub shoulders with the top clubs as they were promoted to Premier League. Byron Job of NAC got the MVP honours with Gilbert Obiero getting the BDP award.

Equity Bank blanked Strathmore University to bag the Nairobi Basketball Association (NBA) men's title. Strathmore University later atoned for the loss by beating Kenyatta University "Oryx" to gained promotion to the national Division 1 alongside Equity.

On the regional front, Nairobi City women's team travelled to Kampala, Uganda where they also retained their crown after beating hosts Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) 66-48 in the final. Again, the MVP was no other than Indasi. Mombasa men made it an all Kenyan win.

Wings were also topped in the region after they torched last year's winners KPA in an all Kenyan finals staged at the Lugogo Indoor Stadium in Kampala, Uganda to carry the crown. KPA failed to make it to the international podium after winning the title in 2011 in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.

It was though a super year for Wings who became the first self sponsored club to feature in the prestigious Africa women club championships in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. However, things did not go their way as they lost all but one of their matches in the continental show won by Liga Desportiva of Mozambique.

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