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25 October 2018 | in NUSF News

Student-athletes vie for first South African university basketball league crown


Wits University of Johannesburg come away with inaugural title 


In the ever-growing and expanding university sports scene in South Africa, Wits University etched their name in the history books by becoming the maiden winners of the inaugural Varsity Basketball tournament held in the country.


Varsity Sports is a group of university sports leagues in South Africa, and the over-arching umbrella used to describe the different sporting tournaments which take place between the country’s top universities in various sporting codes.


Varsity Sports was founded in 2012 and consisted of just two events: rugby sevens and beach volleyball, before expanding to athletics, field hockey, football and netball the following year.


Now into its sixth year of existence, the popular sports league is made up of an array of sporting codes including cricket, women’s football and mountain biking, and this year, for the first time ever, Varsity Basketball was included in the 2018 programme.


Eight of the best university basketball teams in the country, namely UKZN (University of KwaZulu-Natal), UJ (University of Johannesburg), UCT (University of Cape Town), Madibaz (Nelson Mandela University), TUT (Tshwane University of Technology), UP-Tuks (University of Pretoria), VUT (Vaal University of Technology) and Wits (Wits University), all entered the inaugural tournament, which took place over the first two weekends of October at the Wits University Sports Hall.


Each university would play each other once in the group stages, with the four teams with the most points on the overall standings progressing to the semi-finals and eventual final, played on the last day of the second weekend. An added incentive to all games was the exciting addition of the ‘power play’, a two-minute period in every game in which each point scored was doubled, making for furious, high-octane and entertaining moments of riveting play.


From the start of the tournament, hosts Wits stamped their authority on proceedings, going through the group stages unbeaten – the only side in the competition to do so – to end top of the log. They were closely followed by UJ, who opened their campaign with an emphatic 126-19 victory over Madibaz, in second, with their only loss of the round robin stage being to table-toppers Wits.


VUT and UCT rounded off the top four, with both winning four and losing three of their group stage matches, which secured the fixtures for the semi-finals: top-of-the-log Wits would face-off against fourth-placed VUT, while second-placed UJ and third-placed UCT would square off for their spot in the final.

 Wits celebrating following their win to take the inaugural Varsity Basketball crown

Having already beaten VUT 78-67 in the group stages the previous day, undefeated Wits were the firm favourites in their semi-final clash, and it was no surprise to see them cruise past their opponents 91-62 to advance into the competition’s final.


The major shock however came in the second semi-final: apart from their solitary loss to Wits, UJ had been one of the stand-out teams in the tournament, and despite their comfortable 77-53 win over UCT the weekend before, UCT – who had suffered three defeats in the opening week – rallied to produce one of the shocks of the tournament, edging their rivals 81-76 to book their spot in the final.


Buoyed by a jubilant home crowd, Wits began the final on the front foot, playing the ball at a fast pace to surge into a 17-9 lead after the first quarter with Angelo Quinn getting the crowd onto their feet with a superb three-pointer.


The second quarter belonged to the host team once more, as they asserted their dominance with clinical finishing and impressive skills to take a 41-20 half-time lead.


Everisto Passipamere in particular was in fine form for Wits, carrying his impressive display into the third quarter with two slam dunks, which was widely appreciated by the boisterous home crowd. It was all about game-management at this stage for Wits, who kept the scoreboard ticking as they ended the third quarter 68-42 in front.



With one hand on the trophy already, Wits eased off in the last quarter and were outscored 13 points to nine, but little did it matter: the final buzzer sounded with Wits 77-55 victors, as they joyously celebrated being crowed the first-ever winners of Varsity Basketball.


Passipamere’s efforts did not go unnoticed: the skilful player, who top-scored in the final with 28 points, was awarded the tournament’s MVP award for his contribution in guiding his side to the top of the podium.


All images courtesy of Catherine Kotze © All Rights Reserved