All is now set for the quarter final stage of the FIBA Africa Basketball League called the “Elite 8” to be played in a home and away format between March 22 and April 14. While the first leg will be played between March 22 and 31, the return leg will take centre stage from April 5-14.
The four winners from these fixtures will progress to the final four scheduled for May 3-4 in a yet to be decided location.
Fans will be entertained with three derby fixtures involving teams from Egypt, Tunisia and Angola while the other two teams are from Nigeria and Morocco respectively (Civil Defenders and AS Sale).
In the Elite 8 pairing, AS Sale (Morocco) will be up against Civil Defenders (Nigeria), ES Rades will face JS Kairouan (both from Tunisia), Primeiro de Agosto tackle their compatriots Petro Atletico while the Egyptian derby will be between Smouha and Al Ahly.
Association Sportive de Sale, Etoile Sportive Rades, Primeiro de Agosto and Smouha were the four teams who won their respective groups unbeaten while the runners up finished with a 2-1 mark in the Group stage.
A look at the eight teams through to the next stage, their top performers and what to expect from the tie.
AS SALE V CIVIL DEFENDERS
As Sale: The defending champions had two things to achieve in the Group stage, defend their home court and also stay in the competition. They saw off JS Kairouan, Rivers Hoopers and SLAC to book their place in the Elite 8 right in front of their amazing crowd.
Sale averaged 90.7 PPG, 42.0 RPG and 25.3 APG and were the second most offensive team in the Group stage with a total of 272 points scored.
The team had players majorly from the Moroccan national team with two American guards, 34 year old Wayne Arnold and 30 year old Brandos Wood.
Top performers: Abderahim Najah, Mohamed Choua, Sofiane Kourodu and 2017 MVP Abdelhakim Zouita.
Sale on the court leader, Najah, his athleticism could cause problems to their opposition which he did quite well in the group stage.
Civil Defenders: Nigeria’s only representative in the Elite 8 will be up against the defending champions, AS Sale. Whether they make it to the last four or not, the Abuja based team will be proud of what they have achieved in their first outing on the continent. They finished with a 2-1 record beating BC Terreur of DR Congo and Elan Sportif of Benin Republic with their only loss coming against ES Rades of Tunisia.
Defenders will count on Ibe Agu, Ocheibi Okpe and Umar Garba to deliver the goods for the team. Agu averaged 19.3 PPG and 9.3 RPG while Okpe averaged 15.7 PPG and 11.3 RPG in the Group stage.
It’s left to be seen if the Nigerian side can survive the onslaught of the Moroccans or record an upset by stopping Sale from reaching a consecutive semis on the continent.
This is the third time the Moroccan side will be facing a Nigerian side, 2017 against Kano Pillars in the Group stage and most recently against Rivers Hoopers, they emerged winners in both encounter.
ES RADES V JS KAIROUAN
ES Rades: The 2017 finalist have moved a step closer to replicating what they achieved two years ago in the previous format known as the FIBA Africa Champions Cup. ES Rades were undefeated in the group stage beating all three opponents, Elan Sportif, Civil Defenders and BC Terruer with not less than a 16-point margin.
The Tunisians will bank on the quality of their two foreign players, Elhadj Amadou Mbodji from Senegal and Nicholas Simon West an American. Mbodji averaged 15.7 PPG and 6.3 RPG while West averaged 12.7 PPG and 7.7 RPG.
They also would rely on Ziyed Chennoufi and Mourad El Mabrouk.
JS Kairouan: The Tunisians made their debut on the continent worthwhile by qualifying with a 2-1 record in Group B beating Rivers Hoopers and SLAC of Guinea, losing to AS Sale. But a tougher challenge awaits them in the next round against familiar foes ES Rades of Tunisia.
JSK averaged 80.3 PPG ranked the fourth high scoring side with 41.7 RPG and 15.3 APG. They will once again rely on the services of two foreigners on their team. Lawrence Gilbert from USA who averaged 18.0 PPG and 6.0 RPG and Senegalese center, Maodo Ngurane who averaged 17.0 PPG scoring 3 double-double in three games.
ES Rades would have to be weary of the 25 year old Senegalese who came up with great numbers at both ends of the boards for JSK.
PRIMEIRO DE AGOSTO V PETRO ATLETICO
Agosto: The 8-time continental champions successfully achieved their first objective in the FIBA Africa Basketball League which is picking one of the slots in the Group stage. Now that is done, attention will be on making the final four and as well clinching their ninth title but that task won’t come easy because other seven teams in the Elite 8 have shown their qualities in the group stage and hunger for success.
Agosto can count on four players as long as they step up when it matters: 40 year old Eduardo Mingas, Manny Quezada, Islando Manuel and Pedro Bastos.
They have good shooters and passers of the ball little wonder they made 31 three pointers with an average of 30.7.
Petro Atletico: Runners up in Group D will face an uphill task when they face their compatriots Primeiro de Agosto in the Elite 8. The last meeting between the two was at the Zone 6 championship where they finished with a 5-1 record their only loss was against Agosto.
The two-time champions would want to add more to their trophy cabinet but standing in their way is their fellow Angolans, Agosto who they have to put aside before reaching the finals.
Leonel Paulo, Olympio Cipriano and Jose Antonio have a job to do next week in Angola.The Angolan veteran, Cipriano played a crucial role for Petro Atletico leading his team to the Elite 8 in style.
There are also reports that Petro Atletico have reinforced their squad with two players, an American and Angolan international Carlos Morais. An interesting fixture awaits us in Angola later this month.
SMOUHA v AL AHLY
Smouha: This is one derby to look forward to in Egypt having the craziest of fans at their home court. Smouha announced themselves to the continent not just as debutants but a team who understands the basketball culture on the continent and what it takes to win games.
They scored the highest number of points across other groups with a total of 276 averaging 92.0 PPG and best team from the 3 point range with a total of 32 made in the group stage. They are not just only good offensively, they were rated second most rebounding team with an average of 53.7 RPG and were the best defensive team in the group stage.
American duo of James Justice and Adamu Saaka, Mohamed Elkousy and Nigeria’s D’Tigers power forward, Augustine Okosun are players they will count on.
Al Ahly on the other hand relied on their experience which came in handy for them against debutant Rwanda Energy Basketball Club and Ferroviaro de Beira. They were so close to exiting the Africa Basketball League twice after losing their first game to Agosto but a turnaround in the second half of the last two games went in their favour.
American guard Reginald Holmes was a leader for Smouha and recorded an average of 25.0 PPG most by any player in the Group stage with 7.0 RPG.
Ramy Gunady and another American Todd O’ Brien were also pivotal in Al Ahly’s qualification contributing at both ends of the floor.