The defending National Basketball League (NBL) Champions, Lerotholi Polytechnic (LP) has vowed to not give their opponents Tornado98ers (T98ers) any chance when the two meet later today (Friday) in the fourth leg of the NBL playoffs.
The best-of-five playoffs were halted last year as they were meant to head into the fourth game due to unavailability of grounds and subsequently the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games held in Maseru last December.
When the games were halted, LP was leading the series by 2-1, which means T98ers come into today’s meeting as underdogs.
In an interview with Newsday Sport this week, LP coach Tumelo Mara, said that they are not happy with the time it had taken for the games to be played to conclusion as this posed a lot of challenges for them.
“We had a goal to win all our games and wrap-up the series as soon as possible because we struggle to have our key players available all at once, so the time it took to get to these remaining two games brought us a number of challenges,” Mara said, talking to the issue of players’ unavailability as one of the greatest challenges they faced as most of their players are already away on work commitments.
“We are faced with a difficult challenge because most of our players are away on different assignments now; those who are still LP students, are currently in their last year of study and on industrial attachments.
“Nonetheless, we are still in it to win it because the hunger to win is still there though it is no longer the same,” he said.
LP has been dominant in the league since 2018 winning the Southern Conference and making it to the Africa Collegial Basketball tournament finals in 2019 while winning the back-to-back summer slam tournaments in both 2018 and 2019.
Hopolang Hoala, NBL Public Relations Officer and the T98ers senior player, said the reason it took so long to get to this final two games was because of logistical measures beyond the league’s control.
“Due to the unavailability of our normal venue Lehakoe Court, we had the Ratjomose Court as the only available ground but it was unfortunate that they were also hosting other activities in their premises so we had no other alternative venues at the time.
“After that, it was time for the AUSC Region 5 Games and then before we knew it was the festive season hence the only appropriate time is now,” Hoala said.
Giving his comment about the games, he said there has been a lot of preparation during this time and their aim is still to bring an upset on the defending champions.
“We are fully ready to pull an upset on LP with all the respect we have for them but this one is ours to win. I believe looking at the mood we have been having in our team, the guys want it more this time around and we are taking it home,” he said.
The games will be played along with a three-day tournament dubbed Sports Against Gender Based Violence (GBV) at the Lehakoe Recreational Centre.
Mara is the tournament’s Coordinator and he told this publication that they saw it befitting to use what they know as a way to say they stand against GBV in all its forms.
“We looked at all the illnesses in the country currently and GBV is at the forefront so it was logical to use to say we stand against GBV,” he said.
The tournament will have three sports codes being Basketball, Volleyball and Netball.