A thrilling finale filled with drama

A thrilling finale filled with drama

MASERU – There were still a few seconds left on the clock when the Lerotholi Polytechnic players stormed off their bench to begin a celebration no one saw coming at the start of the season. Fokothi simply couldn’t wait any longer.

After months of hustling, Lerotholi had finally reached their destination: a first National Basketball League (NBL) title in over ten years and their first since the NBL’s championship format was revamped in 2014.

Prolific shooting guard Nako Mofube led all scorers as Fokothi defeated Lichocha Shooting Rifles 63-58 in the deciding Game 5 of the NBL finals last Saturday at Lehakoe Recreation Centre to condemn their opponents to the pain of successive NBL finals losses.
The victory also completed a romantic, underdog story.

For the past five years the NBL title has been the preserve of the giants – KTA All-Stars, Bashana Baheso (BBH) and Bokamoso South.
Lerotholi hadn’t been a factor.

They had finished ninth in the 11-team NBL league season over the previous two campaigns and hadn’t even come close to qualifying for the championship deciding playoffs.

When this season got underway it was presumed the NBL title would once again be between last year’s top four – KTA, BBH, Bokamoso and Lichocha.
Fokothi were rarely even mentioned as playoff contenders.

But Lerotholi flipped the script and, on a breezy Saturday afternoon at Lehakoe, their moment to be Lesotho’s new basketball kings had come.
“We are proud to have won this championship against Lichocha, this is for the whole school and this means a lot to the school,” Lerotholi coach Tumelo Mara rejoiced after the final buzzer sounded.

“It is more like a reward for investing a lot of our time on the training ground,” he added.
“We won this championship thanks to the support of our school management and students. They always attended our matches in numbers.”
Those ardent Fokothi fans attended in their numbers again for Game 5 and what they saw was a fittingly thrilling finale filled with drama.

Lichocha, seeking their first NBL title and to erase memories of last year’s finals loss to Bokamoso South, stormed into the lead in the deciding matchup after the sides had shared the first four games 2-2.

Lichocha were quicker to the loose balls and more efficient in their execution and, as they fell behind, the finals heat seemed to get to Lerotholi.
Midway through the second quarter Mara was expelled from the court after heatedly arguing with match officials forcing his team to play the final championship-deciding quarters without their inspirational mentor.

Lerotholi, however, have overcome obstacles all season long and, typical of their next man up attitude, assistant coach Mthembu Phenduka took over the play-calling duties from the bench.

Nkheli Liphoto

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