Ulinzi Warriors players celebrate after proceeding to the Round 16 of Basketbal Africa League (BAL) in the qualifiers played in Tanzania.[Courtesy-BAL]

Local champions Ulinzi Warriors have qualified to the round 16 of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) qualifiers after finishing second in Group D of the Eastern Division qualifiers played in Tanzania over the weekend.

After getting off to a poor start by going down 80-74 to New Stars of Burundi in their opening match played on Saturday, Ulinzi bounced back to defeat Cobra Sport of South Sudan 53-47 on Sunday.

Cobra Sport took an early 11-5 lead in the first quarter before opening up a 10-point gap at the halftime break as Patrick Ngwijuruvugo’s side looked the part.

However, the army side came back a rejuvenated team in the third quarter thanks to Byron Wasilwa who eventually amassed 18 points and four rebounds to reduce the deficit to just one point in the third quarter 36-35.

Ulinzi did not look back in the last quarter and managed to stay clear and pick their first victory in the tournament to join New Star as the two qualified teams from Group E to head to the Elite 16 Round of the BAL 2022 Qualifiers. 

The soldiers who jetted back to the country from Dar es Salaam on Monday will now prepare for the round of 16 set to be played this month and in December.

Other teams from the East who have qualified include City Oilers of Uganda who topped Group E and runners up Kurasini Heats of Tanzania

The BAL Qualifiers, dubbed, Road to BAL 2022, will see a total of 24 teams doing battle for the right to secure the remaining six slots for the 12-team Final Round of the BAL. Six teams – from Angola, Egypt, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Tunisia – have automatic entry to the BAL.

The 24-team Road to BAL 2022 is split into six groups with 12 teams competing in the West Division, and 12 teams drawn in the East Division.

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