Steve Hagumntwari stepped up when Patriots needed him most to secure a 78-72 victory over GNBC at Kigali Arena on Wednesday, while Jermaine Cole, the U.S. rapper known as J. Cole, pulled off a big block.
Hagumntwari's tied the game at 64-all with a mid-range jumper four minutes from time before Brandon Costner followed up with a three-pointer and the Patriots embarked on a 11-0 run to close the game and improve their Basketball Africa League record to 2-0.
GNBC stepped on the floor looking to bounce back from a 113-66 loss to US Monastir on Monday, and things appeared to be going to plan early.
The Malagasy grew in confidence and seemed set to cause the biggest upset in the tournament so far before Patriots head coach Alan Major said "our sense of urgency finally matched GNBC".
"To their credit, for the first three quarters they set the tone," Major said.
"But we finally made the decision as a group to match them, and that helped us to win the game.
"There's no easy games in the competition, and we learned a lesson today.
Hagumntwari contributed nine points and five rebounds for Patriots, while Dieudonne Ndizeye posted 13 points and Costner finishing with a team-high 16 points to go with eight rebounds. Cole did not get on the board in his 15 minutes on the court.
GNBC could only blame themselves for the loss, much as happened when they gave Patriots a hard time in the BAL Qualifiers in Dec. 2019.
"We were rushing our game, which affected us in the last quarter of the game," GBNC head coach Lova Raharidera said.
Kiady Razanamahenina and Elly Randriamampionona buried three three-pointers in combining for 34 GNBC points, but the team lacked concentration when it mattered most.
GNBC remain winless in the BAL before they take on Nigeria's Rivers Hoopers on the last day of Group matches on Saturday.
The absence of without 6'9" center Cameron Ridley, who was ruled out for the rest of the season after spraining his ankle on Monday, proved costly for GNBC, who lost the rebounding battle 56-37.
GNBC scored only 62.5% of their free-throws, and their lack of care with the ball in the final five minutes hindered their chance of winning their first BAL game.
To make matters worse for GNBC, their bench rotation wasn't productive enough contributing only 18 points.