It was Espoir Fukash’s best showing in the Nile Conference, so far, but despite their heroics, Zamalek closed the game out with a 101-92 victory to stay undefeated in four games.
Given both teams’ records in the Nile Conference – Zamalek were undefeated in three games, and Fukash were 0-2 – this was deemed a David and Goliath matchup from the very beginning, but against all the odds, Espoir Fukash forced Zamalek to step up.
While playoffs bound Zamalek seemed somehow relaxed early in the game, Espoir Fukash were fighting for the BAL survival. They even used a 9-0 run that woke up Will Voigt’s team, who had already led by 20 points before settling to a 46-39 halftime lead.
A strong third quarter by Zamalek seemed to have been good enough for Zamalek to cruise to a blowout win, but that didn’t happen because the Kinshasa-based never backed down and closed the gap to just five points with five minutes remaining.
Espoir Fukash shooting guard Rolly Fula came up with a performance for the ages, making 5 of his 13 three-point attempts to finish with a game-high 28 points and five rebounds, and four other players scored in double digits to combining for 48 Fukash points.
Zamalek head coach Will Voig said after the game: “We didn’t get the level contribution from the bench that we expected. We pushed the lead early – 21 points, bench came in, they [Fukash] came back. Same thing, up 21 points in the fourth quarter, the bench came in, they come back. Both those moments were opportunities to take to a 25 or 30 points lead, but we never kept that push. Credit to them for fighting throughout.”
It was Zamalek’s 10th consecutive win in the history of the BAL.
Mikhael McKinney led the way for Zamalek with his 28 points and seven assists, Eslam Salem was 4-for-7 from long range to contribute 20 points, and Anas Mahmoud contributed six points and 10 rebounds in the winning cause.
Despite their 0-3 record, Espoir Fukash remain confident about their chances to advance to the playoffs.
“We still have two games left. This team continues to show signs of improvement,” noted head coach Raven Khonde.
Espoir Fukash will go up against Petro de Luanda on Monday before taking on Cape Town Tigers on Tuesday.