Johannesburg - Shock, relief, but mostly joy, flowed through the Cape Town Tigers changeroom late on Wednesday night after their first win in the 2022 Basketball Africa League in Cairo.
Evans Ganapamo, a 26 year old journeyman, born in Mandeville Louisiana, hit the game winning three point shot with one second left to play, to defeat the Forces Armées et Police team from Cameroon 73-70 in a BAL Nile Conference encounter. “We’ve shown that South Africa and Cape Town can compete on the African level,” said the Tigers’ head coach Relton Booysen. ‘South Africa hasn’t played competitively in the last five years and this is the beginning to show Africa that South Africa is here to compete not only to participate.”
The Tigers had taken a circuitous route to qualification for the BAL, the NBA backed African basketball competition, featuring 12 teams from around the continent. At one stage they faced being booted out, after another team had questioned the presence of some players.
Pure excitement for @CapeTownTigers as @iamEvansG comes clutch in the dying minutes with a three pointer that gives the South Africans their first dub of #theBAL #wearethetigers pic.twitter.com/JCXdYH0rQv— Basketball Africa League (@theBAL) April 13, 2022
However all of that was forgotten on Wednesday night at the Hassan Moustafa Indoor Sports Complex, as Booysen’s team, which had suffered defeats in its opening two conference games including to defending champions Zamalek, claimed a historic win. “Not only is it a big win for Cape Town and the whole of South Africa, this is just showing the level of basketball in Africa period,” said Myck Kabongo, the Tiger’s star forward who played three years at the University of Texas. “It shows that the game is growing, that we have players that are capable of playing not only here but anywhere; you could stick ‘em in China or in Europe, but we are building a league here that is here to stay, that’s a blessing. “
“Big shout out to the coach for staying calm throughout the whole game - his first win in BAL came in dramatic fashion, we almost gave him a heart attack there. That is what this league is about, on any given night any team can win and we showed that tonight,” Kabongo added..
Ganapamo top scored for the Tigers with 24 points. “I went to Evans today and I told him, he must be calm and wait for the right shot. He was very mature, because in the whole game, the ball didn’t come to him, he didn’t rush the shots like he did in the earlier games … I’m proud of the way he stepped up and took the right shot and I’m grateful,” said Booysens.
The victory will be a huge shot in the arm for the Tigers and basketball in South Africa as the sport seeks to reassert itself on the continent and to take advantage of the opportunities the BAL, which is broadcast around the world - including on American sports network ESPN - can provide.
The Tigers have a day off and play their next game against the Cobra Sports Club, from South Sudan, on Friday.