Nigeria’s D’Tigress yesterday continued their Cinderella run in the ongoing FIBA Women Basketball World Cup with Greece their latest victim.They beat European power by the narrowest of margins, 57 to 56 points, to set a date with almighty United States in the quarterfinals.
Nobody gave the girls any chance of coming this far, but since their opening day loss to Australia, the Nigerian girls have changed their game in such a way that many pundits have tipped them to ‘harass’ Team U.S.A on Friday.
The D’Tigress have now beaten the best Europe has offered so far, with their victory over Turkey giving them their biggest scalp yet.
The Greeks, with Nigeria-born Maria Emmanuoela Fasoula, were expected to be the D’Tigress’ biggest test since the opening day, but they met a D’Tigress side ready to give as much as they received.
Nigeria led 15 to 7 points early in the game, but the first quarter ended 15 points apiece.
As has been the case in this competition, D’Tigress had a new leader yesterday with Evelyn Akhator topping in the performance charts.
She recorded +21 in efficiency, 14 points, 13 rebounds, two assists, four steals and one blocks to Greece’s Fasoula’s +23, 18, 12, 0, 0 and 3.
Nigeria suffered from the injury-induced absence of Aisha Mohammed, but her replacement, Sarah Imovbioh, combined well with Ezinne Kalu, Akhator and Promise Amukarama, who contributed 13 points, to keep the Greeks at bay.
The Europeans nearly stole the game from Nigeria, but the D’Tigress took the fight out of them in the last minute when Elo Edefioroko was fouled.
She got up to convert the resultant two free throws to take her team above the Europeans 57 points to 56. Game over and the court erupted in ululation.
The game ended 31-26, 48-37, 57-56 in favour of Nigeria.
An elated captain, Adaora Elonu described the victory as well deserved, acknowledging, “the victory was very difficult but we are happy that at the end, we won.
“Winning the game for Africa and Nigerians in the presence of the Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, who today turned 54 made it extra special.”
NBBF Vice President, Babs Ogunade lauded the never say die spirit of the girls.
He said the qualification for the quarterfinals of the World Cup marks a new dawn in the history of basketball in Nigeria.
“Now, the whole world will start taking us seriously as we have registered our name on the global basketball map.