NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 13- Mercy Wanyama, younger sister to Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama showed that talent runs in the family with a stunning display in the Kenya Basketball Federation Women’s Premier League play off final after guiding her side Equity Hawks to a 73-68 overtime win over KPA in the decider played at Nyayo Stadium on Monday night.
This was the first ever Premier League title for Equity, a team that was formed just three years ago.
The five-game final series had been forced into game five after KPA bounced back in game four on Monday to tie the spoils at 2-2.
At some point in game five, it seemed the dockers had the game in wraps with a huge 16-point gap, but Equity came back to force a 63-63 tie to send the game to overtime.
Wanyama who joined the bankers at the start of the season showed her mettle posting an impressive 36 points in the match with Evelyne Nora and Hilda Indasi also putting in superb shifts to see the side formed three years ago win the league.
“It was a very tough match but we believed in ourselves, defended well and attacked well to win. We have worked so hard for this and it is a huge pleasure for us to win the title,” an excited Wanyama who was also named most valuable player said after the match.
Equity coach David Maina was ecstatic after the result and had nothing but praise for Wanyama.
“I am proud of what she has done today, When she joined the team at the start of the season, she said she is coming to win the league and if we don’t want to do so, then she has no business joining us. Today, she proved she wanted it,” Maina offered.
But KPA who had hoped for a historic double after winning the men’s title on Sunday were left red faced, alleging bias from the referees as the reason for their loss.
“In my entire career as a coach, I have never lost a game in which I led with more than 16 points. I lost today not because we played badly, but because the referees gave Equity easy decisions,” Anthony Ojukwu, the KPA head coach said after the game.
But nothing should be taken away from Equity who showed superb mettle to come up and win the title. Perhaps the words of the bank’s CEO James Mwangi echoed in their ears as they walked into the court for the do or die match.
“You might have lost today (Sunday), but I know you are winners. I am a statistician myself and if I look at your performances, in the previous games, you have always done well in the final quarters so I don’t have a doubt that tomorrow (Monday) being the final match, you will win,” he told them after watching them lose in game four on Sunday evening.
Equity started the match on fire and were comfortable 15-7 winners after the first quarter with Wanyama doing her posting job superbly upfront and Indasi applying pace and precision in the forward play.
But KPA bounced back into contention in the second quarter especially after the introduction of Annrose Mandela and Natalie Akinyi who took control of the match. KPA increased the pace of the game with Equity becoming a bit shaky and losing very simple baskets.
The Mombasa-based girls rallied to tie the score at 18-18 with 6:03 left on the clock and from there, there was no looking back. More misses in picking up rebounds cost Equity more points and KPA went up 28-23 at half time.
The third quarter started in as much pace for KPA and they managed to stretch away further, enjoying a 16-point gap at some point. Equity though rallied back to push the game to a seven point match with a 46-39 score line in favor of KPA.
The fourth quarter blew into a massive contest and a huge comeback for Equity and with less than three minutes remaining, they had managed to squeeze the gap. Equity went back into the lead for the first time since the first quarter with Nora hitting a super three-pointer from the right to take the scores to 54-53.
The drama was just building with KPA getting back the lead after Betty Kananu made a simple basket from a swift turnover with 27 seconds to go, for a 61-60 lead in favor of the dockers.
But Nora responded in style with 10 seconds to go, hitting another sweet three-pointer from the exact spot she hit the first, taking the scores to 63-61.
Victory was scenting for Maina’s girls before a foul on Kananu by Samba Mjomba earned her three free shots with six seconds before the final buzzer.
The court went into deafening silence with tension from both quarters as KPA would have wrapped up the game had Kananu put in all her three throws. But she missed her first and swept in the two others to tie the game at 63-63 and into overtime.
The lead kept exchanging hands in the deciding five minutes and point guard Mjomba who had done well to control the tempo and pace of the game throughout put Equity within touching distance of the trophy, pulling them to a four point gap with two converted free throws with 32 seconds remaining.
Coach Maina called for a time out as the girls who finished third last season strategized on cementing their authority and on resumption, Wanyama put the game to rest with a well taken basket to pull the game to a 73-68 score-line.