First Bank female basketball club of Lagos captain, Nkechi Akashili has blamed the team’s slump to third spot at the Africa Women Club Champions Cup on the late arrival of their foreign-based players for the competition in Maputo, Mozambique.
Although the team appeared to do well until they lost in the semi-finals, and eventually had to settle for bronze, Akashili disclosed that the late arrivals could not blend properly with the other players and their level of understanding was not good enough.
However, Akashili acknowledged she was grateful that they eventually won bronze, as The Elephant Girls defeated Vita Club of Congo 93-69 in the losers’ final.
The Nigerian champions played better than in their semi final loss to hosts’ team, Ferroviario and looked solid even when they trailed after the end of the first quarter which ended 21-14.
The other quarters ended 9-27, 22-23, 17-29 for a cumulative score of 69-93 in favour of First Bank to finish third, just as they did last year in Angola beating Inter Club.
Once again, Jasmine Nwajei led the floor with 23 points, Akashili added 15 points, Cecilia Okoye and Nkem Akaraiwe had 11 points respectively, while Malaika Nyree Green contributed 10 points.
For the Congolese, Ortice Kabobo Haongi led her team in scoring with 17 points, Marlene Ngobeleza who lasted the entire game added 16 points, while Gracia Mawano Nguz and Alliance Ndiba contributed 13 and 12 points respectively.
The Congolese reduced the deficit to eight points early in the fourth quarter but the Nigerians who were bent on redeeming themselves after their poor performance in the semi final against the hosts.
They seized the initiative and went on a scoring run which extinguished the fire in the Congolese.
Afterwards, Akashili stated that third place games are very difficult to play and commended her teammates for putting in their best despite the semi final disappointment.
She, however, said bringing in the foreign-based players at the venue of the competition did not help the team.
Akashili stressed: “We had the chance of winning the championship with the calibre of players in the team.
“The pros joined us in Maputo and did not understand our play. So it is necessary to bring them in early for the next championship.”