First they eliminated reigning champions US Monastir in a make-or-break Sahara Conference clash to qualify for the Basketball Africa League (BAL) playoffs in Kigali, then they shocked pre-tournament favorites Petro de Luanda in Wednesday’s semifinals to book a ticket to the final. Now, can tournament coach of the year Mamadou Gueye and his AS Douanes men go all the way and bring another major upset against the Egyptian kings to clinch the championship on Saturday at BK Arena? AS Douanes came into the playoffs as underdogs but what they have achieved so far is quite amazing, as they are a game away from possibly lifting the coveted trophy. Team talk, roster readjustments - after the abrupt departure of American guard Terrell Stoglin – and a lot of self-belief turned AS Douanes’ fortunes around. The Senegalese champions are currently on a five-game winning streak and continue to dream of going all the way and take the 2023 BAL championship to Dakar. If they beat Al Ahly on Saturday, they will become the first Senegalese men’s team [club or national team] to win a continental trophy in more than two decades when Jeanne d’Arc won the FIBA Africa Champions Cup in 1991 in Dakar. One of the key players steering AS Douanes’ astonishing BAL campaign is Jean Jacques Boissy, a 23-year-old guard who wasn’t even born when Senegal last won the FIBA AfroBasket in 1997 in Dakar. Boissy and teammate Chris Crawford have become opponents’ worst nightmares. In their historical semi-final win against Petro de Luanda, Boissy (28) and Crawford (26) combined for 54 points. “We are really confident but we are also very humble because our goal is to win the championship. We are trying to avoid distractions,” Boissy said. After early losses to Abidjan Basket Club (ABC) and Rwanda Energy Group (REG) in the Sahara Conference, Boissy said that a sincere and real talk was like a rebirth moment for the team. “Coach said we had to play more aggressively defensively,” he recalled. “Our defense is what gave us three wins in the Conference and two more in the Playoffs. We scored a lot of fast-break points thanks to our aggressive defense.” Boissy has - since an early age – been trying to follow in the footsteps of his father Elysee Boissy who represented Senegal at the 2003 edition of the FIBA AfroBasket. In the early days of his career, coaches and scouts discovered something special in the young Boissy, who shared his talent at the NBA Academy Africa for a year before receiving his first call up to represent Senegal at the 2018 FIBA U18African Championship in Mali where they finished second. In 2019, Boissy featured at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in Crete, Greece. His international exposure led him to sign with CB Cornellia of Spain’s LEB Plata before signing for AS Douanes. Reflecting on the importance of beating Petro de Luanda, Boissy said it was a long-waited triumph for Senegal basketball. “The whole country is really happy because everybody remembers that [Carlos] Morais hurt us many times. In the past, Morais made many people cry in our country,” he emphasized, adding that: “If we win the [BAL] title, it’s for the whole country.” Boissy has represented Senegal in different categories. But beating a star-studded Petro de Luanda was a dream for Boissy. “It was a big win for us because I played against my childhood idols. As a young boy I appreciated Solo [Diabate] and [ Carlos] Morais. For me to be able to play against them it was a dream come true.” Diabate and Morais finished with seven and six points, respectively, against AS Douanes. Boissy went on saying, “Our country hasn’t won anything in men’s competitions in Africa since 1997. This position we are in now proves that we can compete for titles in Africa. We are still Senegal.” “With this win [against Petro de Luanda] we want to set the tone for Senegal clubs and national teams. Hopefully, we can win the BAL,” he observed.