Nigeria’s national women’s basketball team on Saturday narrowly defeated hosts Mali 48-47 in an explosive semifinal clash to qualify for the final of the 2017 FIBA Afrobasket Championship in Bamako.
D’Tigress have thus qualified for the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup in Spain.
It was a tough and low scoring match as both sides were equally matched in defensive abilities.
Nigeria were looking to go one further from their 2015 outing in Cameroon where they lost by a point to the hosts but with the Malian home crowd cheering on their team, the Nigerians made a lot of mistakes as they missed scoring chances.
Going into the match with a superior head-to-head against Nigeria – having beaten D’Tigress in six out of seven meetings – Mali were full of confidence in the match but were very cautious against the attacking effectiveness of the Nigerians.
D’Tigress took the first quarter 10-7 before extending their lead in the second quarter with a 13-5 win. But Mali came back strongly in the third and last quarters. They took the third quarter 17-16 while the last quarter ended 18-9 in favour of the hosts.
WNBA star, Evelyn Akhator, was man marked by the Malians but Atonye Nyingifa came out tops in her place for Nigeria. Nyingifa raked in 11 points while Akhator provided 10 rebounds. Ezinne Kalu weighed in six assists.
For Mali, Meiya Tirera weighed in 15 points and six assists while Naignouma Coulibaly had 17 rebounds.
Overall, Nigeria converted 29.79 per cent of their two points field goal while Mali accounted for 25.45 per cent. Nigeria had more three points field goals as they converted 25 per cent against Mali’s 22.22 per cent.
In the free throws, Mali converted 68.42 per cent while Nigeria could only convert 52.38 per cent. The Malians also led the rebounds chart having 52 against Nigeria’s 40.
Nigeria created 12 assists while Mali created 11 but Nigeria had eight steals and Mali had six.
As in their quarterfinal outing against Ivory Coast, the Nigerian bench was more effective against the Malians as they produced 14 points while the hosts managed seven from their bench.
The final of the competition holds today in Bamako.