What is the ultimate achievement one can register in two years? A number I guess, looking at it from a JKL Lady Dolphins team perspective.
Two National Basketball League (NBL) Women championships, a FIBA Africa Zone V Women championship, and a representation of the country in the FIBA Africa Women’s Champions Cup in Antananarivo Madagascar. A privilege they never took-up.
There are no prizes for guessing whether the list gets longer as years go by. One thing is for sure though; that this paramount respect comes in reflection to their masterpieces of the glittering artwork since their inception in 2017.
Journey to the Top Flight
As many basketball enthusiasts in the country would argue that JKL has redefined the requirements and face of the glory of women basketball in the league, their unprecedented rise to fame, however, has for a fact been influenced by the blueprint to success instilled in the players.
This has been more noticeable since Monday Juruni took over in 2018. The same year the Dolphins conquer women basketball and bring to an end a three successive title era of dominance for rivals UCU Lady Canons.
The transition was handled seamlessly for two years and through their marquee signings Flavia Oketcho, Jamila Nansikombi, and Ritah Imanishimwe from UCU Canons who have transformed the fortunes of the Dolphins.
It has undoubtedly been a ridiculous journey recalling from the casual start and now to the giant killers that halted the dominance of the Lady Cannons.
They stormed into the 2018 Playoff finals against a star-studied but ill-organized UCU Lady Canons team and employed them as rugs with which they whipped the Lugogo MTN Arena floor.
FIBA Zone V Women’s Championship Triumph
With multiple failed attempts from counterparts KCCA Leopards and UCU Lady Canons, the 2019 edition of the Zone V championship saw debutants (JKL) take the defending champions Kenyan Equity Bank Hawks to the cleaners in the final at the National Indoor Stadium in Dar-es-Salaam.
JKL Lady Dolphins were crowned champions following a convincing 62-53 win in the final game of a best-of-seven series.
Team skipper Flavia Oketcho led the proceedings with 15 points with Brenda Ekone scoring 14 points, Hope Akello 10 points, and Zainah Lokwameri 10 bringing the title home in their first-ever zonal outing.
Winning their maiden Zone V title meant that the Lady Dolphins booked a direct ticket to the African champions Cup which in itself is a big milestone.
NBL Champions for a second time in a raw
With glimpses of their dominance threatening the league, many came up with a flamboyant gesture of already handing the title to the Dolphins at the start of the 2019 regular season. This was said with respect to their form.
They won 39 out of the first 40 games of the regular season going ahead to register 13 successive wins in a 10-team league, only losing twice the entire regular season.
They would carry their form into the playoffs washing UMU Ravens Basketball Club 2-0 in the best-of-three quarter-final series that saw them confirm a semi-final date with KIU Rangers.
The chance from the Rangers wasn’t quite sustainable and their progress came rather easy enough. This setup an interesting final matchup with rivals UCU Lady Canons.
That presented an end to a ruthless Rangers side that promised a lot of fight and were not to take any prisoners coming into the semi-final.
The final was by no means a disappointment. It was a tie that was surely not short on quality, drama, and excitement over the same games.
A tight affair, too close to call from both teams’ points of view especially considering that UCU almost completed a magical comeback to win the series.
JKL would however cling on to win the final and decisive game thanks to a last-minute three-pointer from their most reliable skipper Flavia hence winning the championship for their second time in succession.
Can they keep the momentum?
The game at this tournament however promises to improve and with more improvements comes better challenges. It will be twice as challenging and Flavia and company have multiple firsthand experiences of this truth.
On their day, JKL can beat any team in the region but winning a tournament however requires consistency, determination, and occasional brilliance. Their title ambition thus forth should ordinarily take precedent to the apprenticeship of their head coach most importantly.