Gombe Bulls head coach Abdulrahman Mohammed while speaking with www.ACLSports.com after his historic win with the team on Monday said “Previous years had its challenges and smooth ride in Nigeria basketball but 2018 has been considered probably the best in my career”.
Gombe Bulls defeated Kwara Falcons 81-67 points to win their first ever title in the elite division while Ibe Agu of Gombe Bulls was crowned highest scorer and most valuable player.
Most times, the final is one many look forward to with keen interest but it was a different case on Monday at the Kofamata hall of the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano. The final was not as difficult for the Bulls like the challenge they faced from Pillars in the semi final on Saturday.
The semis had three things up for grabs; a continental ticket, a chance to win their maiden title and pride. Gombe Bulls knew beating the difficult Pillars was all that mattered if they were to achieve any of the three. Bulls hung on in the last minutes to eventually beat Pillars 66-63 after they almost rallied back in the final seconds. It was their third win over Pillars this season.
“The game with Kano was more difficult than the final against Kwara Falcons,” Mohammed revealed
Mohammed said their win against Pillars was enough motivation in the final.
“We already had the ticket to play the club championship and didn’t matter if we lose but we knew we were not going to lose. We went so close last year against a star studded Pillars team and we lost. We gave Falcons their respect but we knew they didn’t stand a chance against us. We had a lot of motivation going and we wouldn’t allow that slip out of our hands,”he said.
Kano Pillars have won 7 of the last 11 titles since 2008 losing in the 2011 semi final and 2012 final to Royal Hoopers (Rivers Hoopers), final to Mark Mentors in 2015 and recently in the 2018 semi final to Gombe Bulls. The former assistant coach of the D’tigers believes they have ended Pillars dominance which took them time and hard work to build.
“In the years to come I don’t think we would face a tougher challenge like that of the Kano Pillars. They have been like a dynasty and been there for years we just ended it. I don’t think in the years to come we would face a team with so much experience, star studded players, and a team winning back to back titles. You could say we would form the dynasty and dominate in a couple of years to come.”
“If I tell you the number of sleepless nights that I had just simply going through few tapes and how to neutralise their (Pillars) strength, It’s a team packed with so much experience and have players that have played in the national team. It is always difficult to scout them so when we checked these guys, I knew all will be well.”
Mohammed continued,” It has been a well planned technical hard work. Anytime we come close beating Kano like I told you some time back they always come out on top of us it’s usually one second, 1 minute to lack of concentration or 10 to 15 seconds of mistake. We have been able to figure that out and beat them this year it’s probably the best achievement.”
The ex-international praised all the individuals responsible for their success which he described as “destiny fulfilled”.
“It is reward for all the people of Gombe State who has stayed solidly behind us and the governor who has supported the team and being the pillar of the team, for the players and for the fans; it is destiny fulfilled and a dream come true. They have been yearning for since this team was assembled a few years back and it’s probably the greatest achievement in the whole sporting environment in Gombe State.”
Mohammed understands the expectations that come with success and agrees that more work needs to be done to sustain their achievement in subsequent years.
“We will continue the process we started some years back and keep putting everything in place that made us achieve this success. A lot of people working around and behind the clock to ensure the team gets to this stage. All hands will be on deck to make sure we sustain all that we have achieved so far. We are going to strengthen the team because others will do same rather than just go to sleep.
Winning this one will make other players come play for us. It has opened a big pool of players for us to select from and beef up the team. Everybody now understands why they should do their part administrative, financial etc. Hopefully we can sustain this achievement for a long time,” said Mohammed
Mohammed was unlucky not to win the league as a player but eventually winning it as a coach this year is a feat not to be forgotten in a hurry. Moreso, his experience with the national team earlier this year at the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers in Mali and Commonwealth Games are all part of Mohammed’s achievement this year.
“It’s been wonderful with the national team going out with those great big players and playing at the highest level of basketball in the world. It’s been wonderful and capping it up with this title is great and 2018 is just probably my greatest year in basketball,” Mohammed concluded.