With two games left to spare, Nigeria men’s basketball team, D’Tigers, became the first team to qualify for AfroBasket 2021, further extending their fine vein of form. The 100 per cent record so far in the qualifying series saw them dispatch South Sudan with a 75-70 victory in the ongoing series in Monastir, Tunisia.
The ruthless fashion that D’Tigers have applied to punch their ticket for the championship coming up later in the year was again evident in Wednesday’s outing as they contended against a resilient South Sudan. Out to avenge their earlier defeat at the initial meeting in the Kigali qualifiers, they took the game to the Nigerian team from the get-go.
But D’Tigers were up for the challenge and so began a tightly-contested affair between the two teams until D’Tigers were finally able to pull away by taking the first quarter 18-9, which proved to be a fateful win. The South Sudanese, who did not let that dampen their zeal, came right back to win the second quarter 21-20.
The back and forth was to continue in the third as the pendulum swung in favour of D’Tigers in the third by the slimmest of margins: 20-19. This set the stage properly for a tug of war in the decisive fourth quarter.
However strong they ended, the victory was deservedly for D’Tigers with a final score of 75-70 points. It was a far cry from the 20-point margin D’Tigers had over them in their first set of qualifiers in Kigali which ended 76-56 in Nigeria’s favour.
Always impressive with every outing, team captain and guard Ike Iroegbu was the star man for the D’Tigers again. His tally of 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists was one reason it was the Nigerian team celebrating at the final whistle.
They will approach their next game on Thursday against Rwanda with the confidence of having already qualified. D’Tigers beat Rwanda, who were hosts of the first set of qualifiers in Kigali, by a 21-goal margin: 83-62.