By SAMUEL LUKHANDA
UNZA Pacers dethroned Matero Magic to become the new Zambia Basketball Federation (ZBAF) national champions after an epic five-game series final while UNZA Honeys rescued their title from the jaws of defeat in daring fashion from a plucky Napsa Breeze to continue dominating the feminine game.
Pacers took down Magic 81-66 in a deciding game-five to win the series 3-2 and settle a long two-year running argument of who is the number one team in the country after last year’s finals were cancelled.
Magic were dominant in the regular season but were undone by a Pacers fluid game in the post-season and came up short.
Pacers adjusted and the ‘Tamanga Boys’ had no response in the final game despite a 92-67 blowout win in game four to even the series 2-2.
Coach Cuthbert Tembo paid glowing tribute to the vanquished saying he has a lot of respect for Magic and the finals lived up to the hype but there could only be one winner.
“Tough-luck to my friends and brothers- Obert Shamboko, Davies Zulu and the entire Tamanga army. We entertained the country, hyped the city and all. It’s such a pity there could only be one champion. Lots of respect for your team and I know this won’t end now…till next time fellas,” wrote Tembo.
Magic coach Shamboko said it was a tough loss at the end and attributed defeat to fatigue after a huge effort in game-four as his players were running on empty tanks.
“After we blew them away in game-four by 25 points, we couldn’t match them in game-five. They responded very well. Hats off and congratulations to Cuthbert Tembo and the Unza Pacers. We tried but we failed to defend the National Championship. Well deserved to you, till we meet again,” wrote the Magic coach in a Facebook posting.
He said Magic will live to try another shot at the title next year but they have the Zambian Invitational Tournament coming on the horizon and the Zone Six Club championships in Botswana to look forward to in easing the pain.
Meanwhile, Honeys collected their sixth title on the bounce after taking down a stubborn Napsa Breeze 3-2 in five games winning the last game 59-55 to continue enjoying their status as the number-one female team in the country.
But it was not a walk in the park as Breeze shocked them by taking a 2-0 lead in the series leaving the UNZA side on the brink of a sweep in the finals.
They came back with a response Breeze could not live with taking the next three games and the crown too.