28 December 2005

NIGERIA: D’Tigress pick World Cup ticket:…face Senegal in today’s final

The national female Basketball team, D’Tigress, yesterday night qualified for next year’s World Women Basketball Championship in Brazil after seeing off their Congolese counterpart in an excruciating semi-final duel at the Indoor Sports Hall of National Stadium, Abuja.
A late flurry by the home side saw them overcome the Democratic Republic of Congo with 78-66 points in a gripping contest. It was an end-to-end stuff at the beginning with both teams sizing each other up until the D’Tigress captain Mfon Udoka freed her side with two notching shots. Nigeria led 27-16 at the end of the first chukker. Udoka and Mactabene Amachree were impressive.
The second quarter witnessed the Congolese spearheaded by U.S.-based Mabika Wmadi, Kalunda Lumanu and Kalundi Masau rallying back to reduce the tally by five points (29-24), but at half time, Nigeria was leading with 42-33 points.
However, the Lady Tigers began the third quarter on a casual note allowing the Congolese to seize initiative with the amazing Kitoko at the centre of their revival. With the D’Tigress, once again, showing signs of fatigue, the Congolese took the lead at 49-47. The game reached its crescendo at this stage as the vociferous fans urged the home side on. However, litany of errors and momentary loss of concentration combined to deny the Lady Tigers a quick resurrection. At this point, the Nigerians were trailing and badly needed some inspiration, and they got it through their captain Udoka, who was playing her best game in this tournament.
With four minutes remaining in the third quarter, Funmilayo Ojelabi scored a three-point throw to bridge the gap at 51-50. But the Lady Tigers enjoying a good spell blew away three chances at the basket in dizzying succession. Until Udoka notched another three-point to push Nigeria ahead, the home team supporters had their hearts in their mouths. Almost immediately, Congo’s Lumanu, who was having a good game replied back to level the score line at 55-55. The exhilarating quarter ended all-square at 58-58 after Rashidat Sadiq failed to bury two great opportunities.
The Lady Tigers shrugged off their lethargy in the fourth quarter and were librated by Ojelabi’s three-point shooting. Her exploits put Nigeria ahead at 69-64 with the fans, already sighting a final ticket, chanting: “Ose, Ose Ose ohh! Ose Baba!” And they had enough cause to celebrate, when Udoka initiated a rare counter-attack and unleashed Ojelabi to score with just 19 seconds remaining. The Congolese were in disarray. And Amachree compounded their woes with two more points to take the score line to 75-66. The central Africans showed their ugly side, when Mwadi was sent off by the referee for dissent to the chagrin of her coaches and team mates.
When Ojelabi finished off the tie with a remarkable three-points throw, the hall erupted into ecstasy and elation. The defending champions are on course.
The Lady Tigers will now face their staunchest foes, Senegal, who defeated Mozambique 66-37 in the other semi-final. The final of the championship tonight promises to be another cracker.

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