Nigeria became the first African country to qualify for the quarter finals of any FIBA women’s World Cup after defeating Greece 57-56.
D’Tigress on Wednesday afternoon also became the first African side to win three matches in a row at the FIBA Women’s World Cup, Extrasportsnigeria.com reports.
The Nigerian ladies started well leading 15-7 early in the game, but the Greeks clawed their way back into reckoning to tie the contest at 15 points heading into the second quarter.
Sarah Imovbioh replaced injured Aisha Mohammed who until her injury had been sensational for Nigeria averaging 10 points per game. Kalu Ezinne and Evelyn Akhator led the D’Tigress scorers chart with 14 points while Promise Amukarama weighed in with 13points.
Akhator once again emerged the top performer for the team with 14 points, 13 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 assists. With about 30 seconds to the end of the game and Greece leading by a point, Elo Edema caught a rebound before being fouled. She converted the resulting two free throws to hand the D’Tigress an unprecedented quarter-finals berth.
Reacting after the match, team captain, Adaora Elonu said the victory was well deserved against a team that were also hungry for a win.
“The victory was very difficult but we are happy that at the end, we won.”
It will be another proud moment and a major slice of history for Elonu and Nigeria when they step out for Friday’s Quarter-Final clash with reigning champions and red-hot favourites USA.
“We didn’t know what to expect from the World Cup as none of us had been here – it’s just a ride that we’re taking,” she confessed. “I’m happy for us, because we’ve been through a lot and our motto was to stay together and we stayed together,” she told FIBA.Basketball.
“Greece is a really tough team. I don’t know how we pulled it off, but I’m beyond happy and proud. It ranks really high in my career (as a win) just because of this group of girls. They are my family.
“The national team is who you are and your culture. It just resonates so much stronger than any other team – not to take anything away from any other team.
“But here, the girls, what we’ve been through and what we’ve had to fight through just to get here, preparations, treatment – it’s been really hard.
“But the way that we stick together and have fun off the court, on the court, this is just a great moment.”
Elonu was also quick to hand credit to coach Hughley for the way he has galvanized the unit on the floor for this global test.
“Yeah I guess we can give the coach some credit,” she laughed. “It has been a whirlwind. I can’t stress enough how hard it’s been but we have persevered. The coach has stuck with us, he has believed in us and we believed in ourselves.”
Next up, it’s the reigning champions and that is something that us hugely exciting for the Nigerian camp.
“Playing USA does sound really nice,” Elonu said. “I don’t know what to expect, but we’re just going to keep pushing. We go with the same mentality. As a player, as a competitor, you have to go with the same mentality.
“We’re not here, you know, just being happy to still be here. This is a new experience, but we want to put on the best show and performances that we can.”