KIGALI, Rwanda - Al Ahly defeated AS Douanes 80-65 in the Basketball Africa League (BAL) final on Saturday in Kigali, with Spaniard Agusti Julbe becoming the first coach to win the trophy twice after his triumph with Zamalek in 2021.
South Sudan's Nuni Omot, who had been on the New York Knicks roster as recently as this preseason, claimed the tournament's Hakeem Olajuwon MVP prize after scoring 22 points in the final.
Douane's Chris Crawford and Ahly's Amr Zahran traded threes early on to send the sellout crowd into a frenzy, though the stadium had not quite yet filled out. When it did, the bulk were cheering for the Senegalese side.
Omot and Zahran did the bulk of the first quarter scoring for Ahly as they raced into a 17-10 lead, keeping star Douanes guard Jean-Jacques Boissy quiet by throwing a red wave of bodies in his path.
However, Boissy became more influential in the second quarter, drawing fouls and dictating the game, with center Adama Diakhite also playing a major role as Douanes kept the pressure on Ahly.
Pape Diop levelled the scores at 33-33, but before half-time, Ahly embarked on a five-point scoring run to take a 38-33 lead into the break.
Before the game had tipped off, Omot's compatriot, NBA Africa Academy center Khaman Maluach had already attained a monumental honour simply by being named in the AS Douanes starting five, aged just 16 and playing in his second BAL.
Having struggled in the first quarter, Maluach made a big impact at both ends of the court when he was reintroduced in the third, keeping Douanes in the game, but Ahly pulled clear towards the end of the quarter, with Ehab Amin finding his rhythm and Omot continuing to lead the charge.
Ahly led 63-46 heading into the final quarter and started that on the front foot, leaving Douanes with a mountain to climb. However, Omot was the hero of the occasion as his contribution proved to be the difference between the sides.
Coach Julbe said afterwards of the reasons for his two title wins: "This championship is different to the first season with Zamalek. Maybe in season one, I can say not all the teams were prepared or understood what it is to play championships like this and only three or four teams were really competitive at the highest level and we came out with a win.
"I think honestly, the basketball level of this season is way higher.
"We are a big club -- a club with a big history not only in soccer but all other sports -- and we have the support to bring together the best team possible. Six, seven players who made the national team, a deep core and then we had really good additions."
Douanes coach Mamadou Gueye, who had been named BAL coach of the year on Friday, tried to be upbeat in his post-match press conference, saying: "I've never been to Europe, America, all of that stuff. We're local coaches... Here we are, competing against teams with a bigger budget and more experience."
His players, however, struggled to contain their emotions. Diakhite said in the mixed zone that his impressive personal performance "doesn't matter", while a visibly upset Boissy said in the press conference that even getting in the All-BAL first team was no consolation for him.
The All-BAL First team consisted of Boissy, Crawford, Omot, Diarra and SLAC's Dane Miller Jr.