After a brilliant performance against AS Sale for most part of the game, Ocheibi Okpe missed an opportunity to hand Civil Defenders the win against AS Sale in the first leg of the Elite 8 of the FIBA Africa Basketball League in Abuja on Saturday.
Okpe was fouled in the paint by 2017 MVP Abdelhakim Zouita while trying to make a layup with three minutes remaining on the clock but the former Mark Mentors forward missed both clutch free throws which could have won the game for Defenders.
Defenders ended up with a draw 69-69 points heading to the second leg in Sale, Morocco on April 12.
At half time, Defenders led Sale 41-36 as Okpe scored 13 points, four rebounds and three assists with one steal.
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The champions were poor in 3 pointers just 1/7 made at the end of the second quarter and scored just 2 points against 13 of Defenders from the bench but took positives in rebounds. The host were out-rebounded 23-17 in the first half of the game.
Okpe had 19 points, Ibe Agu 16 points while Albert Adottah scored 12 points for Defenders.
Zouita’s seven points scored late in the final quarter ensured the champions return to Sale with their head held high despite missing the services of their shooter Abderrahim Najah who couldn’t make it to Nigeria.
Zouita had a team high 15 points, Yassine El Mahsini 14 points, Wayne Arnold 13, and Mohamed Choua scored 11 points for AS Sale of Morocco.
In the second game played in Tunisia, JS Kairouan rallied back to beat 2017 finalist and Tunisian champions Etoile Sportive Rades 68-67 in an all Tunisian tie.
The second leg will come up on Saturday April 13 at the Rades, Salle Taoufik Bouhima in Tunisia.