Basketball: D’Tigers Win Maiden African Championship

The Nigeria senior men’s basketball team, D’Tigers, grounded out a 74-65 win over Angola to claim their first-ever Afrobasket success in Rades, Tunisia, on Sunday.

They came into the championship match knowing an end to a nine-game winless run against the Angolans was sacrosanct and, aside a slow opening seven minutes, were able to gather their acts together with a well articulated offensive ploy in the second quarter to break free of their competitors.

The win assured Nigeria of an automatic qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, as 11-time winners Angola joins third-placed Tunisia and Senegal in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament slated for July 2016.

The new African champions finished the tournament with a 6-1 record – their only defeat coming against Tunisia in the group stages.

The defeat was Angola’s second at the 2015 championship after previously falling to Senegal in Group B.

Nigeria's Senior Basketball Team Celebrate Their Victory at the 2015 Afrobasket Tournament. Image: FIBA.
Nigeria’s Senior Basketball Team Celebrate Their Victory at the 2015 Afrobasket Tournament. Image: FIBA.

Chamberlain Oguchi, deserved winner of the tournament’s MVP award, finished with a game-high 19 points; credit to his reliable shooting range which saw him sink in 3 out of 10 shots from behind the arc.

Carlos Morais, came up with 15 points – 9 from 12 three-point attempts – to end the day as Angola’s lead performer, followed by Yanick Moreira (13 points) and Braulio Morais (12 points off the bench culminating with maximum fouls).

Alade Aminu and Lawal Olaseni were dominant forces in the paint notching up 12 and 5 rebounds respectively as Nigeria out-rebounded Angola 60-37. Lo! Lawal impressed with 6 out of 6 points from the Free throw line to cap a glorious night for his country.

The former champions were 7-1 up in early days; however, a second-round turnaround aided D’Tigers’ ambition, as the Angolans’ defensive fouls margin proved detrimental, despite Nigeria’s seldom violations on the forward line.

The game-changer, as usual in this tournament, was an Oguchi three-pointer that gave Nigeria a 23-19 lead with 3:28 minutes in the second quarter, on their track to a 37-24 flourish at half time.

Ever since D’Tigers pulled ahead, Angola – with credit to their resilience and doggedness throughout the game – never looked like closing the gap and at some point trailed by a +15 points margin.

As well as headlining the 2015 Afrobasket, Oguchi claimed the award for the Best Points (116 accumulated points) and a place in the team of the tournament, alongside team-mate Aminu, Morais, Makram Ben Romdhane of Tunisia, and Senegal’s Gorgui Dieng.