Basketball Africa League defending champions Zamalek crashed out of the 2022 edition to US Monastir in the semifinals on Wednesday, ending the Egyptian side's unbeaten run since the tournament's inception.
Zamalek, who had looked under par when they limped into the semis, only lost 88-81 in Kigali, but Tunisian side Monastir were the superior unit and carried their thumping quarterfinal form into their toughest game yet.
Zamalek's Mike McKinney was the top scorer on the night with 26 points off the bench, but Monastir were helped by four of their starting five hitting double figure scores, led by Radhouane Slimane's 20 points.
Nigeria international Ike Diogu, who missed the quarterfinals due to injury, was back for Zamalek but did not look his usual explosive self and scored 11 points. Also less prolific than usual was Anas Mahmoud, who scored just eight points in his 32 minutes on the floor.
After the game, Diogu said: "This time of year, I think everybody is hurting [physically].
"I don't think everybody is 100% at this time of the year. I laced up my shoes, so no excuses. I played to the best of my ability and I left it all out there so that's all you can ask for."
Monastir has no such qualms, and with a final against Angolan giants Petro de Luanda looming on Saturday, an upbeat attitude will be half the job done, according to guard Julius Cole.
Cole, who scored 19 points, said: "We keep the same attitude [heading into the final]. We're going to watch film and see how we can stop some of their players. We expect to win games and we have a great core group.
"These guys have been together all year. We have a lot of team chemistry and we're just going to use that to propel ourselves to victory."
In the first semifinal, Petro made relatively light work of Cameroon's FAP, who were the surprise package of the final four sides. Petro cruised to a 88-74 win, with Childe Dundao top-scoring with 18 points.
Petro center Jone Pedro, who scored 14 on the night, told the media afterwards that while his teammates were relatively calm even in victory, they would bring intensity to the final that would not require theatrics.
Pedro said: "We're united as far as the team goes. As far as where the focus is at, everybody does their own ritual. They've got their own rhythm. They listen to their own music and stuff to propel themselves to then show up in the game.
"We're not particularly the team that likes shouting at each other, but at the same time, we know how important this is."
The BAL final will be played on May 28 at 6pm local time [12noon ET], and will air on ESPN in Africa and on ESPN+ and ESPNNews in the US.