The Nigeria women national basketball team, D’Tigress have successfully defended the FIBA Women’s Afrobasket title. The team defeated hosts Senegal in the final on Sunday to win their fourth continental title.
Equally important, the Otis Hughley Jr-led side had also defeated Senegal 65-48 in the final in Bamako in 2017.
The keenly-contested final match was played on Sunday at the magnificent Dakar Arena in Senegal.
A largely-partisan audience of over 15, 000 fans were in attendance at the newly-built arena. This was a record attendance in African basketball history. The previous records for biggest crowd in African basketball belonged to Tunisia and Angola, whose venues (Salle Omnisport de Rades in Tunis and Arena Kilamba in Luanda) accommodated approximately 11,500 fans in each event in 2015 and 2017 respectively.
However, this did not deter the Nigerian team who beat host Senegal 60-55 to win back-to-back continental titles.
As in previous games involving Senegal over the past few days, there was a deafening atmosphere at Dakar Arena. However, D’Tigress held their own.
D’Tigress, who registered a perfect five-game unbeaten run at the biennial competition, looked perfect all tournament on their way to win their fourth African title. With Sunday’s feat, D’Tigress becomes only the second team to twice defend the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket titles title. They won it in Mozambique in 2003 and defended it at home in Abuja in 2005.
To make it to the final, Nigeria eased past Mali, 79-58, in Friday’s first semifinal.
D’Tigress coach hails team’s resilience
Nigeria started the game on top of the proceedings. The team led both the first and second quarters to enter the half time break with a 32-24 lead. Nevertheless, Senegal made a strong comeback in the third quarter to tie the game at 54-up with 2:24 to play in the last quarter. However, D’Tigress dug deep to eventually win the coveted trophy.
Coach of the side, Hughley Jr., hailed the mentality of the Nigerian women.
“We have been here before. We prepared ourselves as though every game would be like this. It is just that the previous games did not give us live training outside of playing ourselves so when that came, we had already been programmed. It is entrenched in our DNA to be ready for a tight game, make smart decisions and take care of the ball and that is what we did.”
Evelyn Akhator scored 14 points and made nine rebounds. Her amazing performance throughout the tournament earned her a place in the Tournament Five. Teammate Ezinne Kalu also shone bright in the tournament. Kalu was named the undisputed TISSOT MVP as she joined Akhator in the Tournament Five.
Hosts Senegal needed to work extra hard to overcome a fearless and determined Mozambique team, 60-57, to get to the final for the third time in a row.
Both Nigeria and Senegal have emerged as the best teams from the 12-team tournament. It came as no surprise that each reached the final after four wins in as many games. However, D’Tigress, recorded a perfect five-game unbeaten run at the biennial competition to win their fourth African title.
Attention shifts to male side, D’Tigers
After losing to Nigeria two years ago – twice in Bamako – 12-time African champions Senegal were left disappointed again. They were hoping to become the first team to win the tournament at home after D’Tigress’ 2015 triumph in Abuja.
With D’Tigress successfully completing their mission, attention will now shift to the male team, D’Tigers. The male team are expected to compete at the FIBA World Cup in China later this month.
The FIBA World is scheduled to hold from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15.
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