Nigeria’s female basketball national team, D’Tigress’ epoch-making star, Evelyn Akhator has expressed delight and excitement over the squad’s ability to retain the FIBA Africa Senior Women’s Championship in Dakar, Senegal, and says they are now looking forward to the next assignment.
Akhator stated in the wake of Sunday’s 60-55 victory over the host country, Senegal, that it was a tough encounter they had to scale over in the final, but admitted it was a relief to finally carry the day.
The amazing star, who recorded Nigeria’s highest scorecard in the nerve-racking final in Dakar, noted how tough it was for all D’Tigress’ players to keep their concentration going in the face of the partisan home crowd.
Akhator stated further during a radio programme monitored in Lagos that D’Tigress have already set their focus on the next phase of their schedule in the coming months, with a hint that they will put in extra effort and zeal to make an impact at the 2020 Olympic Games as well.
She spoke in glowing words after making hay in helping D’Tigress’ with 14 points, nine rebounds and two steals, while the 2019 tournament’s most valuable player, Ezinne Kalu had 13 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Promise Amukamara added 12 points, as Nigeria took control of the first three quarters and led by 11 points (48-37) at the end of the third; but Senegal rallied with a 12-0 run in the first four minutes of the fourth to lead 49-48, such that D’Tigress were forced to turn over 18 times.
The Nigerian ladies failed to covert their free throws, with only 13/31 all through, but Senegal committed 26 turn overs and shot 14/22 from the line, as they tied the game thrice in the last three minutes.
With 47 seconds remaining, D’Tigress shot 3 of 6 from the free throw and, despite a second foul throw miss by Akhator with 19 seconds left, she got the offensive rebound as Nigeria ran down the clock to retain their title for the second time in history.
Apart from emerging most valuable player of the tournament, Kalu was also named in the top-5 stars’ roster alongside Akhator, Astou Traore of Senegal, Touty Gandega of Mali and Mozambique’s Leia Dongue.
Mali saw off Mozambique 66-54 to win bronze for the second edition in a row, while D’Tigress are four time champions, having also won in 2003, 2005, 2017 and 2019, much to Akhator’s delight.
Akhator retorted: “Honestly, I am so excited for this victory, I am happy for us winning this tournament.
“It was not easy. It was very tough. We played against the hosts, against the home team, and against the crowd.
“It was not easy, but we kept our heads and played with our hearts. Now we enjoyt he moment and prepare for the second phase.”