Cape Town Tigers lost the services of American duo Jamel Artis and Billy Preston on the day of their Basketball Africa League debut, and the pressure on the rest of the inexperienced side saw them suffer a 90-61 blowout to Petro de Luanda in Cairo.
Given Petro finished third at the BAL in 2021, the Tigers needed to be at full capacity to stay in the game, so the loss of Preston and Artis, who has NBA experience, to COVID-19 protocols on the morning of the game was a heavy blow.
The scoreline was unflattering to the Tigers, who actually kept up with the Angolan giants for two third of the game, and stayed within single figures for the first half and into the third quarter.
Coach Relton Booysen told ESPN that he would be taking positives from the game despite the loss: "I liked the way the guys fought, they stood together. Some of the guys on the bench got more minutes than planned.
"When we have the two starters back, they [the bench players] will have some experience of the BAL. So this actually is a good thing in a way, it gave them an opportunity to get on the court."
One thing the Tigers could not be accused of was lack of effort, or spirit. Pieter Prinsloo, the Tigers' all-heart captain, stayed on the floor for most of the game and looked a broken man by the end, given the bench was not as deep as required.
Booysen admitted he needed to use his skipper, and his other stars Myck Kabongo (10pts) and Evans Ganapamo (17pts), for much longer stints than planned. All three were on the court for well over 30 minutes.
He added when asked if Prinsloo was limping due to injury: "My plan initially was to sub people off after four minutes but due to the fact that Billy was not here, I had to keep him [Prinsloo] on the court.
"He played more minutes than what we planned for, so I think it was fatigue, he doesn't have any injury."
READ: Everything you need to know about the BAL
Petro were led by their star man Carlos Morais, who led the game with 23 points and hit 5-from-11 three-pointers. Petro scored 16 threes to Cape Town's five, and that made the difference as the score ran up dramatically in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers will have arguably an even bigger challenge in their next game on Tuesday, as they come up against BAL champions and highly professional outfit, not to mention hosts with a fervent fanbase, in Zamalek.
The other match up on Sunday saw Cameroon's Forces Armees et Police record a blowout 77-60 win against DR Congo's Espoir Fukash. It was another game that started off closely, but the experience of FAP, who competed at last year's edition, won out.