If there was ever a doubt that Nigeria’s D’Tigress are the most in-form team at the 2017 FIBA women’s Afrobasket, such has been put to bed after they played the game of their lives to defeat the host country Mali in their semifinal match on Saturday.
The coach Sam Vincent tutored side produced one of their best performances of the tournament, holding their nerves in a one-point game that saw them emerge with the win, beating Mali by 48-47 points.
It is a huge win which is very significant as Nigeria has now secured one of the two slots for the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2018 taking place in Spain.
Much was said about Mali’s record against D’Tigress, also factoring in that they defeated Nigeria the last time they met in 2015 at the African Games in Congo Brazzaville where they won GOLD, but the Nigerian ladies showed that they were not afraid of any opposition, having earlier beaten the defending champions Senegal in the group stages.
Both Ezinne Kalu and Atonye Nyingifa led the way for D’Tigress, accounting for 11 points each as Kalu further helped out with 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
Mali’s Meiya Tirera who spent the longest minutes on the court of both teams with 40, had a game high 15 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds, while her compatriot Naignouma Coulibaly’s 17 rebounds were largely responsible for the late rally as the hosts almost forced an overtime.
Nigeria led from start to finish but started wilting under pressure in the 4th quarter despite leading by as much as 11 points at some stage.
With just 00.07 left in the last quarter, Nyingifa missed an opportunity to put her team through to the final but couldn’t convert any of her two free throws. Luckily for them, nothing amounted from Coulibaly’s defensive rebound as it would have been heart wrenching for the Nigerians to lose with the game’s last action.
Nigeria now awaits the winner of the tie between Senegal and Mozambique as they hope to win a third Afrobasket crown.