In what was their toughest match so far at the ongoing women’s Afrobasket Championships in Yaounde, Nigeria’s D’Tigress overcame a resilient Senegalese team in the semifinal on Friday to qualify for their third consecutive final.
Nigeria did not capitulate under pressure in the 4th quarter, rather holding on strongly to defeat Senegal 73-63 points, to keep their hopes alive on a quest to complete a 3-peat championships triumph.
With that semifinal win, Nigeria will now face Mali in the final on Sunday, after the latter defeated the home team by the scruff, winning their contest by just one point in a 52-51 thriller against Cameroon.
The defending champs are going to the Finals!
🎉Congrats to Team Nigeria 🇳🇬!! 🎉@nbbfonline #AfroBasket #Women #Celebrate60 pic.twitter.com/yCCJJgahz2
— FIBA Women's Afrobasket (@afrobasketwomen) September 24, 2021
Nigeria will be delighted avoiding another home team in the final, after enduring a torrid time against Senegal two years ago in Dakar. It was a game that drained them, with the hostile home fans making a concerted effort to throw them off their rhythm.
What has been working for D’Tigress in Yaounde, is the non-dependence on just one player to come good for the team. Against Senegal, Amy Okonkwo was by far the standout player for Nigeria, making a game-high 16pts and 7rebs. Before Okonkwo started dominating, Ify Ibekwe held the forte leading the scoring charts and eventually finishing with 14pts and 6rebs.
Ezinne Kalu might not have found the bucket yet in this game, but she is doing more than just scoring points. She is the orchestra, and it's nice seeing others chip in with points.
🇳🇬🇳🇬 60 – 46 🇸🇳🇸🇳#AfroBasketwomen2021 pic.twitter.com/tlCe787qts
— Making of Champions (@MakingOfChamps) September 24, 2021
It took some time for Ezinne Kalu to find the bucket, and when she did, it was at a crucial stage of the game when Senegal had momentum. Kalu combined effectively with skipper Adaora Elonu who made 6 or 12pts overall in the last 3mins of the 4th quarter, taking off the sting from Senegal.
Nigeria could take pride, knowing there are buckets spread across the team, and their shooting efficiency was almost at 63% (62.96%), making 17/27 shots overall they had in the match. If they play close to what they have churned out all tournament, it’s going to take a lot from Mali to be able to stop them completing the 3-peat job.