by Chibuogwu Nnadiegbulam, AIPS Young Reporter, Nigeria
TENERIFE, September 26, 2018 – Since achieving their first ever FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup victory against Turkey in their second group game in Spain, the D’Tigress of Nigeria have not looked back in their fairytale run at the ongoing tournament.
Two more wins in a row, and the inspiring African Champions have now made history yet again as the first team from their continent to ever qualify for the quarter-finals of the global showpiece.
To achieve this latest milestone, Coach Otis Hughley’s charges saw off a second European opposition, Greece 57-56 on Wednesday at Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and will now face defending champions, USA in the last eight.
Following a 15-15 tie at the end of the first quarter in the quarter-final qualifications game against Greece, the D’Tigress dominated proceedings in the second and third to lead by 11 points going into the fourth quarter.
Gradually, the Greeks began to claw their way back and eventually reduced the deficit to just one point at 54-53 with 43 seconds to go.
Fans of both sides were on the edge of their seats. Even Greece were looking to qualify for their first-ever quarter-final. Then Styliani Kaltsidou drew a foul and converted her two free throws to give the Europeans a one-point lead.
The lead lasted only 17 seconds before Elo Edema Edeferioka made the most important move of the game – an offensive rebound that earned her two free throws which she gladly converted to send Nigeria to the next round.
Nigeria’s Evelyn Akhator registered a double double for a third time in the tournament with a team-high 14 points and 13 rebounds, while three of her teammates also finished on double figures; Ezinne Kalu (14 points), Promise Amukamara (13 points) and Atonye Nyingifa (10 points).
Maria Emmanouela Fasoula led Greece with a game-high 18 points and 12 rebounds but their late surge in the final quarter, which they won 19-9, was not enough.
Greece have been eliminated from the tournament while Nigeria have a very huge task ahead of them in the shape of the number one basketball playing nation in the world, the USA.
The USA were the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals of the World Cup after Day 2. Out of the three games they have played they have scored 100 points or more in two.
Even the D’Tigress know it will be a miracle of monumental proportion if they manage to overcome their American counterparts. In the meantime, however, they can relish their achievements thus far at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.
This is only their second appearance at the tournament after making their debut in 2006 – a debut in which they failed to win a single match.But in Spain, they have been making history one game at a time.
First, the D’Tigress became the second team (after Senegal) to win a game in the group stage of the World Cup. Then, they left Senegal behind and made it two group victories (in a row).
Alongside Senegal, they took Africa to the next round of the tournament for the first time ever. Before now securing an unprecedented third World Cup win – the most by an African team in a single tournament – to become the first from the continent to achieve a quarter-final berth.
No matter what happens in the game against the USA, the D’Tigress have already made a mark at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Spain and deserve every praise they receive.