Ahly of Egypt beat Senegal’s AS Douanes 80-65 to win the 2023 Basketball Africa League (BAL) title.
It was Ahly’s first title after losing it to their crosstown rivals Zamalek while AS Douanes haven’t won the tournament since 1991.
The famed red jersey Ahly became the second Egyptian team to win the tournament after Zamalek won the inaugural BAL season.
The season began on 11 March 2023 and ended on 27 May 2023.
The playoffs were played in the BK Arena in Kigali which hosted the final stage for a third season in a row. The regular season was played in Dakar and Cairo. Both venues hosted a conference for a second year in a row.
Ahly started the first quarter slow but led 57-44 in the third and never looked back.
“We had to attack him,” said Ahly Ehab Amin, who had a rough first half but managed to score his nine points all in the third quarter.
“He plays 30 plus minutes per game, he scores over 20 points. He is one, if not, the best player in the tournament. We knew the key was to stop him,” Amin said.
Nuni Omot led the way for Ahly, finishing with a game-high 22 points and Corey Webster added 13 points off the bench.
Omot took the 2023 Hakeem Olajuwon BAL MVP award and the 2023 BAL Most Valuable Player. He averaged 18.9 points in eight games.
“We just need to keep our heads high,” said Adama Diakhite who contributed 14 points off the bench for AS Douanes.
“It’s always tough to lose a final, but it’s part of the business. We made a few mistakes. We didn’t have a good shooting percentage from the three-point line, and they took advantage of the situation,” Diakhite added.
Both Michael Fakuade and coach Agustin Bosch have become two-time BAL champions after helping Zamalek to the 2021 BAL crown.
Ahly concluded their 2023 BAL campaign with an overall record of 7-1.
The South Sudanese forward highlighted the All-BAL First Team alongside AS Douanes’ Chris Crawford and Jean Jacques Boissy, Aliou Diarra (Stade Malien) and Dane Miller (SLAC).
“We are very proud with the team’s performance,” Mohamed Serageddin, Ahly board member said. “They played very well and were up to the challenge as usual. The new coach has added a lot to their performance and was able to make use of a number of players in different positions.”
Ahly player Ahmed Ismail said it was “a great day and a great victory that we deserved. We have exerted our utmost effort to secure the title and be able to qualify for the World Championship. We have worked hard as one team and it is a well-deserved victory. I have also to thank all Ahly fans who backed us all through the competition and were a direct reason for our victory.”
With the win Ahly earned the right to represent Africa at the next edition of the FIBA Intercontinental Cup.
The championship will take place for the second time this year after the dates of the event were changed to September to suit all the participating teams. It will take place this time in Singapore for the first time.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 1 June, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly