The 2019 best-of-three playoffs to determine who carries home the BENJAMIN BAAFI trophy tipped off Thursday night at the Prisons’ Headquarters in Cantonments, Accra.
The series is match up between the Braves of CEPS/GRA and Adenta Leopards who finished 1st and 2nd on the league table.
During the regular season which comprised two rounds of all-play-all featuring 9 teams, Braves had another perfect season winning all 16 games. This means they have beaten Adenta Leopards twice already this year.
Braves’ second win against Leopards was not easy and not without drama. Most basketball fans in Ghana will recall Leopards had literally won it except for that missed dunk from Fred Asante, the smart thinking rebound by Dougie and kick out to Patrick (Papa) and the heart wrenching, game winning three -pointer. To the Leopards team, that was all in the past. They needed to prove to the whole world they were capable of beating the Braves.
Game One of the Playoffs had many storylines to it. Leopards sharp shooting guard, Wolf, was on the court but not in uniform. Available information suggested that there are some internal issues preventing him from suiting up. Braves were also missing veteran guard Dodzi Baniba due to a bereavement. Interestingly, the game winner in their last encounter, Papa was also unavailable. He was involved in an altercation with a fan during the third-place playoff with Tema Youth last Saturday which earned him a ban.
The game tipped off with Leopards controlling possession. Thomas Amediku opened the scoring with a three pointer from the right corner. The first quarter was tense with many turnovers on both sides. The quarter ended with Leopards leading 12 – 6.
The single digit score for Braves is the lowest I have seen them score. This was clearly a sign of trouble and therefore came back into the second with more vigour. They executed much better especially on the breaks. Leopards responded with a couple of three pointers from Kontor and Joel. There was that beautiful fast break assist from Fred Asante and of course, Astro was automatic with his mid-range jumper.
‘Chronic’ left the game with a head injury but returned after being taped up by the first aid team.
The half ended 30 – 17 with Joel’s free throws.
Braves started the 3rd quarter strong with Nii Kwate hitting 3 outside jumpers in a row. Alhassan Mutalib and Emmanuel Amoah also came out shooting from the arc. At the end of the third, Braves has closed the 13-point gap. The quarter ended 46-40. Leopards lost Astro to injury in the third quarter. He was treated on the sideline but had to be taken to the hospital for stiches. He did not return to the game.
Braves pushed hard in the fourth and got within 3 points of the Leopards twice but that was all they could manage. Leopards warded off the come back with threes from Kontor, Joel and Thomas.
Apart from Mutalib who had 17 points, no one else in the Braves team scored in double figures. Leopards on the other hand had Thomas scoring 17, Joel Tham 15 and Kontor adding 14 points. Braves scored 5 out of 27 three-point attempts against Leopards’ 10 of 29 attempts. Apart free throws where Braves were slightly better in percentage, Leopards beat them in every category of the game according to the statistics sheet.
Game Two will be at the Lebanon House on Saturday. Coach Meme (Mr. Basketball) said he hopes his team would have recovered fully for game two.