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Rivers Hoopers, Defenders, Elan qualify for AfroLeague 2019
COTONOU (FIBA AfroLeague 2019) – The New Year is one to look forward to for three African clubs as they punched their tickets for the newly-launched FIBA AfroLeague set to start in January 2019.
Nigerian side Rivers Hoopers left no one in doubt that the regional Qualifiers held in Cotonou was theirs as they won all five games to finish in the first place.
In the last game of tournament they defeated bottom of the ladder AS Police from Niger 55-34 to enrich their trophy cabinet.
Once again, Buchi Nwaiwu who scooped the MVP award, put up good numbers for Hoopers, finishing with 17 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks while Solomon Ajegbeyi added a double-double, 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Nigerians.
The Hoopers led from start to the finish and kept a huge gap from the first quarter 18-2 which increased to a 26-point lead going to the last quarter.
Meanwhile, AS Police put up a good fight in the 4th, outscoring the Hoopers 15-10 but it wasn’t enough to turn around the game despite Libidi Tankoano's 10 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals.
Hoopers won all five games against Civil Defenders (Nigeria), Custom Braves of Ghana, Elan Sportif (Benin Republic), Harbel Pointers (Liberia) and AS Police (Niger) respectively to finish unbeaten in the competition.
Nwaiwu highlighted the All-Tournament team alongside Akpatchi Romario (Elan Sportif), Davidson Samuel (Harbel Pointers), Ijigba Joel (Civil Defenders) and Ali Sulleman (Customs Braves).
Elan Sportif captain Romario was rated as the highest scorer, Sulleman led all shot blockers, Dodli Norberji of Customs Braves was the highest 3-point shooter while AS Police's Amadon Abelov was awarded the leader in steals and assists.
River Hoopers Ogoh Odaudu head coach pointed out some challenges his team encountered in the tournament.
He said: “It was a great tournament and every game was difficult in its own way and we won’t say one was easier than the other. Every game had its own peculiar challenges. Today we faced some challenges in the second quarter, Police started playing us zone defence and the shots were not dropping because we had difficulty scoring but I am happy we came out victorious.”
Nwaiwu hopes to improve on his performance ahead of the AfroLeague. He said: “I feel very happy helping my team win the tournament. It’s a plus to me and my career. I have never been in this sort of competition before. It has shown that I can do better than what I have put out there and I'll work on it.”
So far, clubs qualified for the FIBA AfroLeague include Al Ahly of Egypt - winners of the Zone 5 Qualifiers, Smouha (Egypt), both Primeiro D'Agosto and Petro de Luanda of Angola, Ferroviario da Beira (Mozambique) who finished first, second and third, respectively in Zone 6 Qualifiers, and Zone 3's trio Rivers Hoopers (Nigeria), Civil Defenders (Nigeria), and Elan Sportif (Benin). Zone 4's DR Congo's clubs ASB Mazembe and ASB Terreur have also made to the Final Round.