No team had pushed Nigeria to the limit like hosts Mali did in the semi-final of the AfroBasket Women Championship on Saturday at the Palais des Sports Salamatou Maïga, D’Tigress winning 48-47.
Since the pairing of their Semi final opponents became obvious, it was clear the fixture will be Nigeria’s toughest yet, with due respect to Senegal who they defeated by four points in an inconsequential group game.
Saturday’s win means D’Tigress are now 7-0, a championship record for the two-time AfroBasket winners.
That moment when you realize you booked your 🎟 for the #AfroBasketWomen2017 Final AND for the Women’s Basketball World Cup 😃🙌 @nbbfonline pic.twitter.com/g9J8mtrdTO
— FIBA (@FIBA) August 26, 2017
Prior the game, Mali were on a four-match winning streak and a 6-1 head to head stats, but coming off the jump ball Sylvain Lautie’s team were slow to react.
Nigeria have not lost a game in Bamako and only dropped four quarters; in all five group stage games.
Sam Vincent’s team shot ahead, but Mali kept a close tab and though Nigeria won the first half battle including each individual quarters, the margin was frighteningly close and that was all the invitation their opponents needed.
The second half resumed with Mali shooting at will to record a 10-0 in the opening minutes of the third quarter.
D’Tigress managed to slow down the onslaught, putting in a dogged fight but lost still by a point.
The score stood at 39 29; in favor of D’Tigress, and the fourth was the decisive quarter.
The final 10 minutes would determine the first team to punch in the card for a spot in the 2018 FIBA World Cup in Spain.
It was Nigeria who bounced back with gusto, but Mali would knock the wind out of the Felines and bring the scores to just a point’s different in the closing minute.
The final score 48-47 might be mistaken for poor shooting, far from it.
The floor of the Palais des Sports Salamatou Maïga had six of the Championship’s top 25 best shooters from Free throw, 2points and 3points range at different times.
Nigeria also recorded its worst shots made so far in Bamako the closest being the 58-54 win against holders Senegal.
The sub 50 scored by both teams was a result of proper defensive play coupled with the pressure and truly, moments of profligacy.
Last time around, D’Tigress lost to the host Country in the semis, to drop into the final Qualifying Tournaments for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, but failed to make it to Brazil.
On Saturday, they shut out every distraction off the floor, kept their focus, girdled up and wore determination as kits to truly represent Nigeria.
On Sunday, the journey reaches its destination; at the finals. And D’Tigress return to face defending champions and 11-times winners, Senegal.
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