The triumph underlined the Orange Army’s dominant status in varsity basketball as earlier this year they won the University Sport South Africa title. They were also crowned champions of the Gauteng University Basketball League.
Although they were 55-50 behind with just five minutes left, UJ never lost faith and used their power play to seize the initiative.
For coach Mandla Ngema it was a feeling of relief when it was all over.
“It is always difficult to play as favourites because there is a lot of pressure on us,” said the UJ mentor.
“But for the guys to pull it through in the end when we were behind for most of the match is a great feeling.”
He acknowledged the tough challenge which UP-Tuks had presented under coach George Makena.
“Thanks to UP-Tuks for the final and we have a lot of respect for them,” added Ngema.
“They battled last year but have really come back and what they did this week to reach the final is mind-boggling. A lot of credit must go to coach Makena.”
UJ star Lance Lance Chikore was voted the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and said winning the title meant they had achieved a dream.
“I’m so happy because we have been working towards this the whole year and I am very proud of my teammates and what they have put into their games.”
He added that he had urged the team to stay focused until the end, despite being behind for most of the match.
“I believe everything is about hard work and being strong in the mind. Although they were up, I told my teammates to just keep our heads up and to focus on closing the gap basket by basket.”
Captain Trystan Speck summed up the team’s emotions when he said the final result was “just overwhelming”.
“I really have no words for what I’m feeling at the moment,” he said in the post-match interview.
“This second week of Varsity Basketball was tough, but we managed to come through.