The Ellis Park Arena witnessed an eventful six days during the East Division Elite 16 Basketball Africa League (BAL) qualifiers, ultimately determining the last three teams to advance to the upcoming 2024 competition.
The host team, Cape Town Tigers, along with City Oilers from Uganda and Dynamo BBC of Burundi, have secured their places for the fourth edition of BAL, scheduled to take place in three cities, including the Playoff Final 8 returning to Kigali, Rwanda.
Eight teams gathered in Johannesburg, with seven contending for qualification and the eighth, NBA Academy Africa, utilizing the competition for preparation.
They were not in contention for qualification. Dynamo BBC, earning a wild card from Group C pre-qualifiers, faced off against group winner Pazi BBC of Tanzania, Tigers, and NBA Academy Africa in Group A. Group B featured nine-time Ugandan champions City Oilers, Ferroviario da Beira (Mozambique), JBC (Zimbabwe), and Club Omnisport Police Nationale (COSPN) of Madagascar.
Despite expectations favoring Tigers and Pazi in Group A, Pazi fell short, losing 88-85 to Dynamo after initial defeats to NBA Academy Africa (84-57) and Tigers (95-87). In Group B, Mozambique’s representatives, Ferroviario da Beira, considered favorites alongside the Oilers, finished third, missing out on the Last Four due to an 88-57 loss to COSPN and a subsequent 100-86 loss to Oilers.
The semifinals saw no surprises as Oilers defeated Dynamo 72-61, with Robinson Opong contributing 17 points, including 15 from threes. Tigers secured their place in the final with a hard-fought 67-63 victory over COSPN, thanks to Nkosinathi Sandile Sibanyoni’s man-of-the-match performance.
In the final, Tigers claimed a 70-68 victory over Oilers, sealed by a last-minute Cartier Diarra jumper. Looking ahead to the fourth edition of BAL, coach Mandy Juruni emphasized the need for a winning mentality and thorough preparation for the Final 12. Tigers’ coach Mlungisi acknowledged the heightened competition in the Elite 16 and expressed plans for early team formation, strategic adjustments, and talent recruitment for the upcoming season.
The final qualifying slot for the 2024 BAL was secured by Burundi’s Dynamo, defeating Madagascar’s COSPN 79-78 in a historic win. Dynamo became the first team to qualify for the BAL Finals through an Elite 16 wild card, marking a significant achievement for Burundian basketball.