Angolan basketball giants, Petro de Luanda came into the Basketball Africa League (BAL) with the favourites tag on their shoulders.
Going by the results of their first game on Tuesday at the Kigali Arena in Rwanda, it is fair to say they are worthy contenders for the inaugural BAL title.
Petro de Luanda brushed off Mali's Association Sportive Police (AS Police) 84-66 in a dominant display in the Group B affair where the Angolans led by 30 points at some point in the game.
Jone Pedro had 17 points and 17 rebounds for Petro de Luanda to earn him the Player of the Game award.
Four Petro players recorded double-digit points in the convincing win.
Petro's roster is composed of mainly the same team that represented Angola during last February's Fiba AfroBasket qualifiers, having been together since the November 2020 qualifiers window.
Shooting guard Carlos Morais reassured their fans the team will live up to the hype of being tournament favourites.
"I believe we still have a lot to improve on as a team. We are going to do better going forward. We are here to compete and to win. That's the mindset," Morais said.
His comments were echoed by his coach, Jose Neto.
"It is very important to win the first game. In this kind of tournament, every game is important for us. We played like a team and if we continue to play like this, we hope to win this tournament. We approach each game as the final,"
Petro de Luanda outscored AS Police 29-9 in the first quarter, before the Malians regrouped to take the second quarter 28-20, to head into the break trailing 49-37.
Petro then cranked up the pressure and ended the thrid quarter 70-45 up before closing out the match 84-66 victors.
Mamadou Keita led AS Police with 19 points.
"This is a really experienced team. They outplayed us in the paint, but we are going to get ready for our next game," said AS Police head coach Boubacar Kanoute in the post-game press conference.
Both Petro de Luanda and AS Police resume their BAL Group B campaign on Thursday.
AS Sale outlast FAP
Meanwhile, in the late Tuesday night tip-off, Moroccan side AS Sale rallied to sink Cameroon's Forces Armées et Police Basketball (FAP) 86-84 in a thrilling encounter at the same venue.
Both teams gave the few dozens of fans in attendance a memorable game of basketball with their end-to-end exchanges.
FAP led in all the first 3 quarters: 25-23, 42-33, and 62-59 at the before falling to a heartbreaking 84-86 defeat in the last 40 seconds of play.
FAP coach Lazare Adie Ngono admitted in the post-game presser that his men will have to improve on "controlling the anxiety especially when we are in the lead of a close game."
"We have young players who are experiencing these kind of games for the first time. We have to pick the hard lessons and make ourselves better for the next game," he added.
BAL action continues on Wednesday after with three Day 4 match ups, including the host country's side, Patriots BBC taking on GNBC of Madagascar at 2pm (Kigali Time) tip-off.