Rovers crowned champs at last

MASERU — It’s always hard to understand when people claim that the thrill of the chase can be more satisfying than leading from the front.

For Rovers, after finally being crowned National Basketball League (NBL) champions last weekend, this paradoxical statement might run true.

In the last three seasons the National University of Lesotho team was arguably the best in the league.

However, they were repeatedly unable to fulfil their potential.

In all the cases Rovers would convincingly win the semi-finals of the league’s Top Four Playoffs but somehow always find a way to self-destruct in the finals — losing twice to Lerotholi Polytechnic, in 2007 and 2008, and to Bashana Ba’eso in 2006.

This time round it was a different story at Lehakoe as Rovers beat Leseli 54-50 in an enthralling final to take the title to Roma for the first time.

“The game itself wasn’t as satisfying as the road to it,” Rovers stalwart Motloli Mothepu says.

The Saturday final was essentially a match-up of two underdogs.

Leseli had defeated the much-fancied Bashana Ba’eso in an overtime cliff-hanger, while Rovers had overcome perennial rivals Lerotholi Polytechnic in the semis.

But as Leseli frantically tried to claw back a lead they at one point had, Rovers showed some maturity they haven’t shown before, slowing down the ball and keeping possession and closing out the game.

It might have been different. During the season complacency and that perpetual tendency to self-destruct meant Rovers lost crucial games to Lerotholi, Leseli and twice to Bashana Ba’eso.

A core of fans Mothepu calls the “sixth man” have diligently followed the team regardless of the disappointing results, the occasional blooper and of course Saturday’s blazing heat.

“This affection has followed us everywhere and we are grateful,” Mothepu said.

The game itself was a fast-paced, physical encounter as both sides exchanged baskets.

However, Lukonde Kakoma’s shooting in the fourth and final quarter saw the team home.


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