High stakes as teams battle for play-off slots

By: CAXTON APOLLO

The race for play-off slots in the men and women’s basketball Premier Leagues enters a crucial stage this weekend with make-or-break second leg matches in Nairobi.

Equity Bank, Lions, Nakuru Club and Strathmore University must win their remaining matches to advance from the Eastern and Western Conferences.

Equity Bank will walk a tight rope against reigning men’s champions Kenya Ports Authority at Strathmore University Madaraka outdoor courts Saturday.

The bankers, who lie fourth on the nine-team Eastern Conference standings with 33 points, will then tackle arch-rivals Strathmore University at the Nyayo Gymnasium Sunday.

Equity Bank find themselves in a tricky situation as they have to win their remaining three matches to stand a chance of qualifying for the play-offs.

Nakuru Club’s fate of qualifying for the play-offs will depend on their performance against Kenya Airports Authority at their Menengai High School backyard on Saturday from 12pm. On Sunday, Richard Kanda’s Nakuru will be in Nairobi to lock horns with stubborn hosts Mennonites.

Nakuru Club must garner maximum points from the two matches, and hope Strathmore and Equity falter, to dislodge rivals Lions from the fourth position with 36 points. Lions, who picked up form late in the season, have already completed their 23 fixtures with 33 points.

Fifth-placed Strathmore University will host fast-fading Nairobi Aviation Saturday from 12pm but their main challenge will come from top-four rivals Equity on Sunday at Nyayo.

Third-placed Thunder face two must win matches this weekend against KPA and second-placed Blades.

Blades are assured of a top two finish in the Western Conference where they have 37 points from 16 wins and five losses.

In the women’s league, defending champions USIU-A Flames will entertain Ulinzi Blades in their Western Conference return leg clash Saturday. Flames lead the standings with 31 points from 15 wins and one loss. Ulinzi and Co-op Bank are the other two teams assured of a place in the play-offs.

Storms and Masaku Sparks are in the race for the fourth position in the competitive Eastern Conference of the women’s Premier League.

Debutantes Masaku have already concluded their 19 matches in fourth spot with 31 points while Storms, who tackle Eagle Wing today, are in fifth position with 25 points but will dislodge Masaku if they win their remaining three matches.

FIXTURES

Saturday: Strathmore University: Baraka Xtreme v World Hope, MKU Thika v Barclays Bank (9am), Parklands Baptist v Lakeside, Storms v Eagle Wings (10.30am), Co-op Bank v Kisumu Lady Bucks, Strathmore University v Nairobi Aviation (12pm), USIU-A Flames v Ulinzi Blades, Equity Bank v KPA (2pm), Zetech University v Terrorists, Thunder v Blades (4pm). Eldoret: Eldonets v Don Bosco (9am), Eldonets v 4 Christ (3pm). Nakuru: Nakuru Club v KAA (12pm).

Sunday: Eldoret: Eldonets v Blazers (10am), Nyayo Stadium: Ulinzi Blades v Lady Bucks (10.30am), World Hope v Barclays Bank (12pm), Terrorists v KAA (1.30pm), Equity Bank v Strathmore University (3pm), Thunder v KPA (4.30pm). Strathmore University: MKU Thika v Little Prince, Upper Hill School v Lakeside (9am), Emyba v Parklands Baptist (10.30am), Strathmore University v Co-op Bank, Mennonites v Nakuru Club (12pm), Blades v Zetech University (2pm), Pirates v USIU-A Tigers (2pm), USIU-A Flames v Kisumu Lady Bucks (4pm), Mku Thika v Lakeside (4pm).

SOURCE: DAILY NATION