Morocco's FUS Rabat down Petro de Luanda, Cape Town Tigers lose to Dynamo at BAL 4

Mali's Aliou Diarra, who played in the NBA Summer League for the Milwaukee Bucks, was a bright light on the BAL's season 4 opening day. His team, FUS Rabat of Morocco, defeated tournament mainstays Petro de Luanda in the opening game. Nacer Talel/NBAE via Getty Images

PRETORIA, South Africa - Angola's Petro de Luanda and South Africa's Cape Town Tigers were shocked by Morocco's FUS Rabat and Burundi's Dynamo BBC respectively on Saturday in front of a sold out SunBet Arena on the opening night of the 2024 Basketball Africa League (BAL).

FUS beat Petro 82-73, while fellow debutants Dynamo silenced the packed home crowd with an 86-73 win against the Cape Town Tigers afterwards.

In the early tip-off, FUS had the better of the first quarter, with 2023 BAL Defensive MVP Aliou Diarra dominating at both ends of the floor. The Moroccan champions, who qualified through the Road to BAL West Division tournament, led 23-17 at the end of the quarter.

By half-time, they had stretched their lead to 41-31. Diarra continued to dominate with his second quarter slam-dunk proving to be one of the highlights of the evening.

Carlos Morais did his best to lead Petro from the front and inspire a third-quarter fightback, scoring 10 of his 19 total points in the quarter alone, but despite his best efforts, FUS still led 66-55 heading into the final quarter.

Ultimately, Rabat survived the onslaught and regrouped to claim a fairly comfortable win. Diarra finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 3 steals while Johnathan Jordan led the scoring with 17.

Despite Petro's subpar 23/60 from the field and their struggles to contain the likes of Diarra and Jordan, coach José Neto attributed the upset more to Rabat's brilliance than Petro's deficiencies.

"Two things can happen when we lose the game: we lose the game or they win the game. They won the game. They played very good basketball, so for us, we have to adjust the focus to qualify for Kigali," Neto said in the post-match press conference, praising Rabat for managing to keep Morais quiet except in the third quarter.

In the late tip-off, Dynamo, wearing a tournament's sponsor's logo blacked out on their jerseys, raced into an 8-0 lead before Billy Preston Jr. finally scored the Tigers' first points of the night.

The Tigers rallied back with Samkelo Cele leading the charge and Nathi Sibanyoni chipping in but Bryton Hobbs' 13 first quarter points gave the Burundian champions a 21-15 lead heading into the second quarter.

They then pulled further away from the disorientated Tigers, going into the break with a 44-29 lead.

Dynamo started the third quarter strongest, but the home crowd rallied around the Tigers, inspiring another fightback. By the end of the third quarter, Dynamo led 66-53, inspired largely by former Tigers guard Dhieu Deing.

The Tigers clawed their way back to 67-62 with a bucket from Cele but Deing hit back with a three before Israel Otobo added two more points on the fast break for Dynamo.

Despite the best efforts of Cele and Preston, who scored 44 of the team's 73 points between them, the Tigers were unable to regain momentum and Dynamo saw out the win.

"We just need to come out way more aggressive. We started the game slow. Offensively, a lot of us got selfish in our selfish ways," Preston said in the mixed zone post-match, backing his team to bounce back if they can add more aggression to their game.

READ: ESPN's guide to all 12 BAL 2024 teams