Nigeria reach fourth straight Women's AfroBasket Final
KIGALI (Rwanda) – Nigeria took a huge step towards their fourth consecutive FIBA Women's AfroBasket title, courtesy of a 79-48 win over hosts Rwanda in a Semi-Finals on Thursday.
The defending champions have shown near-perfection in every aspect of the game to reach their fourth final in a row as they muted off Rwanda's ambitions from the tip-off.
Though the hosts led for a total of 1'28 minutes, Nigeria swiftly flexed their muscles and never looked back, even leading by 26 points at one point.
TURNING POINT: As the hosts scored the opening points, they entered a dry spell which saw Nigeria file a 15-0 run. It was only right before the first buzzer that Rwanda scored once again, but Nigeria managed to go up by 16 points.
From that moment, it became clear that Nigeria would be the one making it through to the Championship Game. They relentlessly paved their way to victory and left Rwanda with the hopes of finishing, at best, at the third place.
HERO : Amy Okonkwo led the D'Tigresses to victory with a game-high 23 points, while Olaoluwatomi Taiwo followed with 12 units to her name.
Okonkwo contributed 10 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 assists.
STATS DON’T LIE : So many figures speak for Nigeria. First thing: they once again relied on their bench to make a difference, producing 33 points, far more than Rwanda's 6 points.
Similarly, they also used fast breaks points (12) to calm Rwanda's nerves and clinch victory.
To add to this, Nigeria have out-rebounded Rwanda 51-35, with 36 defensive rebounds, while the hosts only recorded 25.
Third, they scored 11 for 24 from behind the arc, with Okonkwo and Taiwo sharing 9 of them.
BOTTOM LINE: Nigeria extend their winning streak in Africa to 23-0 and head towards a fourth consecutive FIBA Women's AfroBasket.
While the team has gone through a revamping, with only four players from the previous edition remaining, questions have arisen as to their ability to reach the Championship Game. With what they displayed on the court, they sure are solid title contenders.
THEY SAID: "I feel relieved honored. The team that won two years ago was a phenomenal team. But I think this team as well can fill those shoes. Under the leadership of coach Rena, we are in a good spot to repeat that win.” Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah, Nigeria center.
"There's no secret. But they should be empowered. I believed in them. And I put a lot of confidence. And here we are doing amazing things. Team work and confidence in them, and we see the results." - Rena Wakama, Head coach, Nigeria.
ADDITIONAL NOTES: The two Classification Games, earlier today, saw the undisputed victories of Cameroon over Guinea (74-37) and Mozambique over Uganda (88-62).
Cameroon redeemed themselves after they lost their Quarter-Final game to Senegal.
Three of coach Ahmed Mbombo Njoya’s charges finished with double digits to their credits, namely Jessica Thomas, who scored 10 points, while Carine Silatsa added 13 points and Hermine Ngueko claimed 11 points.
Mozambique have joined Cameroon for the Classification Game for the 5th to 6th places, after they fended off Uganda 88-62.
The Southern Africans have had a bit of trouble at first, but Ingvild Mucauro led them to victory with a game-high 23 points, while Tamara Seda contributed a double-double (17 points, 11 rebounds) to the winning cause.