Thierry Darlan [1296x729]
Thierry Darlan [1296x729] (Credit: Geofroid Aballo/NBAE via Getty Images)

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CAIRO -- Potential NBA Draft prospect Thierry Darlan played a leading role in Bangui's 96-93 upset win over Al Ahly Benghazi in the Basketball Africa League on Wednesday, while Duke Blue Devils signing Khaman Maluach posted 27 points and 16 rebounds to inspire City Oilers to an historic 82-81 win over hosts and defending champions Al Ahly of Egypt.

In the early game, Ahly Benghazi were chasing their third win of the Nile Conference and Bangui their second.

Jimmy Djimrabaye of Bangui, the Central African Republic's champions, scored the opening points of the game before homegrown hero Darlan stunned the small crowd -- many of them Ahly Benghazi fans -- with a smashing dunk. Bangui put seven points on the board before Ahly Benghazi got their first two-pointer through Jo Lual-Acuil.

Ahly Benghazi claimed momentum and hit the front midway through the first quarter, and the teams traded blows as the Libyans led 16-15 at the break.

Bangui raced into a 27-20 lead in the second quarter, with Darlan and Rolly Fula Nganga leading the offence for the Road to BAL West Division winners and Djimrabaye also making vital contributions. Ahly Benghazi's deep roster ensured they stayed within reach, however, and Bangui led 47-45 at halftime.

Bangui scored the last three points of the first half and the first 17 of the second, and Ahly Benghazi had a mountain to climb when they finally found their feet. The Libyans reduced the deficit to 71-59 but nevertheless went into the fourth quarter very much still playing catch-up.

Ahly Benghazi continued to chip away at the deficit as Darlan was rested at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but he returned towards the end of the game to help his team finish the job.

However, one of the few weaknesses in his game -- his tendency to take a shot despite better options -- saw Ahly Benghazi claim a critical rebound then land three free throws at the other end to cut the deficit to 85-83; to make matters worse, Djimrabaye fouled out of the game.

Fula hit straight back with a clutch three-pointer as Bangui looked to hold onto the win they so desperately needed; not only would it put them firmly in the race for automatic qualification, but it would also improve their chances of being one of the two best third-placed teams in the respective conferences should they miss out on a top-two spot among the four teams in Egypt.

Darlan redeemed himself with an important two-pointer to make it 93-87. Ahly Benghazi reduced the margin to 93-90 with 7.7 seconds to play, but Kurt Wegscheider hit a free throw after a Pierre Jackson foul to stretch it to 94-90. The Libyan champions sank a three-pointer to set the game up for a nail-biting final 2.8 seconds, but Ahly Benghazi's Solo Diabaté was blown up for a late foul -- a decision that infuriated him -- and Nyang Wek sunk his two free throws.

Ahly Benghazi tried a long-range three-point shot on the last play of the game, but it fell short and Wegscheider grabbed the ball for Bangui to clinch the win; Fula posted 30 points and Darlan 26 points and 14 rebounds.

"It means a lot not only for me but for our people back home, too," Darlan said after the game. "We tried to work hard, bring the energy and represent our country as well. We just want to win at the end of the day. It doesn't matter the way we win."

City Oilers too slick for BAL champions

Inspired by South Sudan center Maluach's colossal efforts at both ends of the floor in the first quarter, City Oilers took an early lead over the defending champions in the second game, leading 23-21 after the first quarter; for a team that has often been sluggish out of the blocks, this was much needed.

The lead changed several times in the second quarter. Ahly spread their scoring across several players, in trademark fashion, while Maluach starred for City Oilers with Dane Miller Jr. also influential in the first half. City Oilers, the Ugandan champions, led 38-35 at halftime, giving Al Ahly coach Agustí Julbe plenty to consider through the break.

Ahly came out firing in the third quarter, led by in-form Omar Oraby, Patrick Gardner and sharpshooter Ehab Amin, and they led 64-56 at the final break.

Ahly are typically hard to pick apart in the fourth quarter, but Maluach led a late fightback from City Oilers and the scores were tied 77-77 with 2:03 left on the clock.

Randy Culpepper carried the load with Maluach as the teams traded blows, but Oilers held on to claim an incredible win -- their first victory of the tournament this year, as Ahly suffered their first defeat.