When City Oilers edged KIU Titans 2-1 in their best of three quarterfinal series in the National Basketball League in 2013, few would have imagined they would go on to dominate in the manner that they have.
Such has been their authority domestically that the Oilers have never lost a playoff series since then in a run that now stands at 14 as they seek a fifth straight title.
That is the record KIU are trying to break in the 2017 best-of-seven finals that started yesterday at the Lugogo MTN Arena.
They have undergone a near complete overhaul in the ensuing years with only Chris Omanye and Samuel Aguttu the only survivors from that 2013 roster.
Despite massive recruitments in the subsequent seasons, it is only this year that they have managed to reach their maiden final with the foreign additions of Sudi Ulanga, Michael Bwanga and Ethienne Kazungu.
Unlike previous seasons they have also shown resilience not associated with their teams as they overcame slow starts in game three and four to snatch victories.
Ulanga averaged 15 points in those two games as KIU trailed 22-16 at the end of the first period and 50-42 at the end of the third before prevailing 74-65 to claim a 3-1 series victory.
But with the Oilers fresh from a second straight continental appearance and having played four straight finals, they start as favourites against a KIU team with no pedigree but with seasoned players and newfound resilience.
Both teams appear evenly matched in this department. City Oilers captain Jimmy Enabu has morphed into one of the best point guards in the country to add to his repertoire of skills.
He will be complimented by Ben Komakech and shooting guard Jonah Otim whose defensive skills will come in handy against Ulanga, Michael Bwanga and Chris Omanye.
The latter are equally as good with Ulanga and Bwanga’s shooting supplementing the guile of Omanye.
On paper KIU Titans seem to have the edge with the rejuvenated Oscar Muge a welcome addition to Kazungu, Geoffrey Soro and Francis Kumpanyi.
But like the City Oilers regular season wins showed, James Okello’s aggression gives the Oilers a fighting chance on the inside to enhance the intelligence of Landry Ndikumana.
Veteran forward Stephen Omony was the notable off-season addition for the Oilers who lost “big man” Kami Kabange, an MVP candidate in each of that past four seasons.
After a slow start, the ever-green national team captain has commanded a starting spot with his versatility at both ends of the floor.
He has added quality and depth as well as giving coach Mandy Juruni more scoring options to Enabu and Ndikumana.
KIU on the other hand will rely on the shooting of Ulanga amd Omanye who are averaging 11 points apiece this season.
KIU have had one of the biggest turnovers of players in the past two seasons but have a manageable roster this season.
Both teams are not short of depth though with Tony Drileba Daniel Jjuuko, veteran Geoff Omondi as well as James Chuma providing the options for City Oilers.
KIU on the other hand can count on small forward Agutu while Collin Kasujja showed on more than one occasion in the regular season he can unsettle the Oilers guards.
Forward Oscar Muge, like Ulanga, seems to have benefited most from coach Brian Wathum’s promotion.
KIU Titans have made massive recruitments over the past three seasons but it is Wathum rather Hamza Nyambogo brought in at the start of the 2014 campaign by Nasser Sserunjogi, who has delivered a maiden final appearance.
The bond between him and the players should further be strengthened by the affection the team showed him following the sudden death of his wife late last month.
Yet still his counterpart Mandy Juruni appears to have the edge over him.
He is in his sixth successive finals having also been in charge of Pemba Warriors when they last won the title in 2012.
What he may lack in motivational skills, he more than makes up for with his game reading that should further be enhanced by the national team Silverbacks and Oilers’ continental expeditions.