Dynamo 79-78 COSPN
Burundi champions Dynamo basketball club have secured the last slot for the fourth BAL season thanks to a nail-biting 79-78 win over Madagascar champions COSPN on Sunday night at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
The win means that Dynamo are the first team to benefit from an Elite 16 wild card to qualify to the BAL Finals and, most importantly, the first Burundian side to join the continent's clubs premier basketball competition.
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The Olivier Ndayiragije-coached team faced ups and downs for most of their qualifying campaign, and almost spoiled their BAL dream when things looked done and dusted in Sunday's Third-Place decider.
Dynamo's sense of urgency in the opening quarter caught COSPN by surprise as the Bujumbura-based side went on a 11-2 run, 2 minutes into the game that forced COSPN to call a timeout.
COSPN's Samuel Adewunmi opened the scoreline after making one of his two free-throws for their only lead in the first half.
Bello Nkanira's 3-pt buzzer-beater that sealed the first quarter at 30-18 was a clear example of how determined Dynamo were to get the job done as early as possible. They even led by as many as 17 points in the first half.
Defensively, Dynamo were all over the place, preventing any potential COSPN shooting opportunity, which forced the Malagasy champions to turn the ball over six times, a quarter and half into the game.
However, Julien Chaignot's continuing instructions paid off as his COSPN closed the game to 47-41 at halftime.
And, in a turn of events COSPN rallied, using an 18-0 run between the second and the third quarter and enjoyed an 11-point lead.
Dynamo looked panicking in the defining moments of the game but, thanks to a sequence of COSPN's missed free-throws, Ndayiragije's charges were able to retake the lead and seal the historic win in the final 28 seconds of the game.
Ironically, Dynamo, who averaged only 50 percent from the free-throw line before Sunday's Elite 16 Third-Place game, scored their final two points from the charity stripe, courtesy of David Kongor Deng.
The popular saying that "basketball is a sport of runs" fitted perfectly to this encounter where two evenly-matched teams fought tooth and nail to secure the last ticket for next year's BAL season.
Elly Randriamampionona's 3-pointer closed the gap to 56-55 with 02:37 left in the third quarter before Livio Ratianarivo hit another 3-pointer that gave COSPN a 58-56 lead with a minute left in the third stanza. COSPN entered the final quarter leading 62-59.
Coming off the bench and finishing 3-for-4 from long range was everything Dynamo needed from Nkanira, who contributed 11 points and 2 assists.
Chis Obekpa, a former NBA G League player with Santa Cruz Warriors and a two-time BAL participant, brought his resilience to the fore, keeping Dynamo in the game with a game-high 14 rebounds and 1 block shot while contributing 8 points in 32 minutes on the floor.
Forcing Bishop Micheal Coulter out of his comfort zone paid off for Dynamo as the American power forward, a central piece in COSPN's offensive game, finished with just 4 points snd 5 rebounds.
At the end of the BAL qualifiers, Dynamo return to Bujumbura with an overall 4-3 record, which included a 2-1 mark from the preliminary round held in Dar es Salaam.
At times, during the Third-Place game, Dynamo looked idealess, but when it mattered most, they delivered the final blow.
Meet BAL Season 4 teams
Al Alhy (Egypt)
AS Dounes (Senegal)
US Monastir (Tunisia)
Bangui (Central Africa Rep)
FUS Rabat (Morocco)
Al Alhy Benghazi (Libya)
Rivers Hoopers (Nigeria)
Cape Town Tigers (South Africa)
City Oilers (Uganda)