Nigeria beat host Mali 48-47 points in an epic semi final game of the 2017 Afrobasket to seal their place in Sunday’s finals.
Ezinne Kalu scored 11 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists while Atonye Nyingifa made 11 points and 4 rebounds in front of a pack filled arena.
It was a game of two defensive sides who played safe in the first quarter (10-7). At the end of the second quarter, Nigeria had stretched the lead to 11 points (23 -12).
With a 6-0 run for the host early in the third quarter (23-18), the D’Tigress knew some thing had to be done swiftly. Kalu made the first three point shot of the game with 5:42 left on the clock and then extended Nigeria’s lead (33-23)
Nigeria struggled offensively all through the final quarter and got their first jump shot with less than two minutes remaining. Evelyn Akhator who has been an integral member of the team’s roster had a low scoring game (5 points) but helped out on the defense as she made 10 rebounds. Akhator’s contribution was however missed as a result of foul trouble with 4:54 minutes remaining.
Nigeria blew away a 12 points lead twice and struggled to maintain their lead. They made 11/21 of their free throws and 3 of 12 from the arc.
Meiyi Tirera scores 15 points and 6 assists while Ramata Diakite added 12 points and 9 rebounds for the host
The host made 16/64 of their field goals and had too many turnovers (20) which in the end gave Nigeria the advantage.
Mali missed 3 straight jump shots and 1 of 2 from the free throw line awarded with 53 seconds left (48-47). Nyingifa later won a foul but eventually missed both with seven seconds left.
The last few seconds was breath taking for the D’Tigress who held on to win by a point.
Nigeria have now qualified for the Afrobasket finals and the FIBA Women’s World Cup in Spain next year.
Nigeria will take on Senegal or Mozambique in Sunday’s final .