Kings in the North: Tunisia's US Monastir crowned BAL champions

Tunisian champions US Monastir beat Angola's Petro de Luanda to win the second edition of the Basketball Africa League, running out 83-72 victors at the BK Arena in Kigali on Saturday.

Having beaten 2021 champions Zamalek in the semifinals, Monastir, who were the losing finalists last year, were always going to be tough to beat. The Angolans certainly put up a fight though, and it was a tight contest right until the final few minutes, when Monastir pulled away and outscored Petro 26-13 in the fourth quarter.

BAL 2022 MVP Michael Dixon, who finished the tournament averaging 16 points per game, scored a team-high 21 on the night, along with six assists. Firas Lahyani, AKA 'Air Tunisia', also scored 21 points, while defensive MVP Ater Majok added 14 and four blocks.

Dixon was effusive in his praise for his coach and team after the game, saying: "First, I just want to say before we start talking about the team or myself: this man right here [Miodrag Perišić] did an unbelievable job.

"A lot of people didn't believe in this man and I really love and appreciate this man because he stayed with the team through thick and thin and he really didn't have to. This man deserves flowers and deserves this trophy."

Dixon added: "My father [Michael Dixon sr] is from Oakland, California. He played basketball at San José State. He walked on there and he was the all-time career assists leader. When I first started playing basketball, the first thing he told me is that you need to be a good teammate before you even step on the court.

"I love this game. If I didn't get paid to play it, I would play it for free. This is just a culmination of a coach and a team coming together at the right time. I'm really happy for Tunisia and I'm happy for US Monastir Club.

"We worked really hard. We played every two days when we left Dakar and we won a league championship and a cup final domestically. This is just the icing on the cake."

For Petro, who finished third last year, this was an improvement in the final standings, but they were devastated to have let the game slip away right at the end.

Yanick Moreira said: "It's tough when you look at the box score as a player. I'm looking right here -- eight turnovers -- that's on me. As one of the vets on this team, you can't really play a final game like that.

"When I decided to come back and help a team like Petro de Luanda, it's because I wanted to win. We were five minutes away.

"Congratulations to Monastir; they did a good job... What can we say? We've got to look at ourselves in the mirror, take it on the chin and regroup. I'm proud of our team, proud of our young players.

"We've definitely got a lot of talent and we're going to make another run next year."

Petro coach Jose Neto, who was voted coach of the tournament, added: "I'm proud of them because I have no doubt they did their best. We played almost 40 minutes, but in the final, almost is not enough. I believe [that] in five minutes, we lost the game."