Equity Bank are the new Kenya Basketball Federation women's Premier League champions. The bankers defied odds to bag their maiden title by beating Kenya Ports Authority 73-68 in overtime on Monday night at the Nyayo Gymnasium.
The bankers banked the title in their second season of playing in the top-tier. Mercy Wanyama was named the most valuable player after leading Equity scorers with game-high 36 points. Hilda Indasi who finished with 18 points was named the overall top scorer with KPA’s Betty Kananu was the best defensive player.
Yvonne Akinyi top-scored for KPA with 22 points as the dockers lost in their third successive final. “We won it in Mombasa when we took game two,” David Maina, the Equity Bank head coach recalled of what turned out to be one of the toughest finals in the ladies competition over the years.
“Our initial plan was to win game one but unfortunately things did not go that way. At some point, we were trailing by 35 points in the first half but we won the second half to finish strong. In game two, I told the ladies to pick it up from where we left it in game one. We tied at halftime and eventually won the game.”
In the decisive game five, Equity appeared to be down and out in the third quarter when KPA opened up a 15-point lead of 38-23. With star players Samba Mjomba and Indasi giving away possession easily from turnovers, Equity’s fighting power was clearly going down but they managed to pick up.
“We were conceding very cheap turnovers. I called a timeout and told the ladies they were mature enough to give away possession easily and they had to change,” Maina noted.
“I reminded them that there was no other game to play; this was the final.” Equity was flawless in the first quarter as they won 15-7.Natalie Akinyi gave KPA a 2-0 lead before Wanyama tied 2-2. Samba then won a turnover ball and passed to Indasi who made it 4-2 to Equity.
In the first four minutes, KPA struggled with the shot. They missed four three-pointers; three from Hellen Oketch and one from Celine Okumu.
KPA turned tables
The bankers opened an 11-point lead of 15-4 before the quarter closed. KPA turned tables in the second quarter with a 21-8 score to lead 28-23 at halftime. With four minutes played, Yvonne Akinyi scored from a lay up to tie 18-18 and Annerose Atieno made it 20-18. Wanyama tied for Equity 20-20 before Atieno made a basket for 22-20 to KPA who maintained the lead up to halftime.
Indasi and Wanyama starred for Equity in the entire of the first half scoring a combined 21 out of 23 for the bankers. In the first quarter, Wanyama scored eight points and Indasi had seven.
In the second, they both scored three points each with Samba adding a basket. Third quarter was tight with KPA winning 18-16 and were 13 points clear in the first two minutes.
Yvonne Akinyi buried a three-pointer and a basket while Kananu scored a basket and one free shot to give the dockers good foothold. Samba went on to miss three attempts at the three-point line and Indasi’s further attempt fell short as the bankers faded out.
Equity turned competitive in the fourth quarter to force a tie and take the game to overtime. They converted KPA’s turnovers into points with Evelyn Nora nailing two crucial three-pointers that destabilized her former side.
With 4:37 on the clock, Nora had a three-point shot that gave Equity a 54-53 lead, their first after close to 20 minutes. Felmas Adhiambo tied 54-54 with a free shot and Wanyama broke the tie 56-54 with a basket. Yvonne Akinyi made it 56-56 then Wanyama turned over 58-56. Yvonne Akinyi gave KPA a 61-62 lead with 27 seconds to play.
Ten seconds later, Nora gave Equity the lead with a three-pointer for 63-61. Samba then fouled Kananu as she went for a winning three-pointer gifting KPA three vital free shots. Kananu converted two to tie 63-63. Equity called for a quick timeout but the possession bore no fruit.
In added time, Nora sunk a three-pointer to give Equity 66-63 lead and led until Felmas Adhiambo tied 67-67 from the free-throw line with 1:27 on the clock.
Wanyama made it 69-67 and Samba killed off the game with two free shots only 32 seconds to play. She was fouled by Atieno who then fouled out. Maina plans to sign a few young players ahead of the new season.