Tenerife, Spain : The Nigerian women’s basketball team, D’Tigress, recorded their second-straight win at the ongoing FIBA Women’s World Cup with a hard-fought 75-70 victory over Argentina in Spain on Tuesday.
The keenly contested game, which was played at the San Cristobal de la Laguna, Tenerife, saw the Nigerian side take the first quarter 19-13.
The Argentines, who before the match against Nigeria were defeated in their first two games against Turkey and Australia, showed some intent in the second quarter with a 16-13 edge over D’Tigress.
Both sides battled hard in the third quarter and D’Tigress found their South American opponents a hard nut to crack as they settled for a 19-19 tie.
D’Tigress were fighting for a chance to clinch second place in Group B, which also comprises group leaders Australia and Turkey.
Both teams then went to the final quarter and that was where D’Tigress kept their nerve to win the quarter 24-22.
Argentina were no doubt playing their best game of the tournament against D’Tigress, and even took the lead at some point in the final quarter.
However, it was D’Tigress who stepped up their game and put up some brilliant defensive performance in the final four minutes against a desperate opponent.
The game against Turkey had Sarah Ogoke as Nigeria’s top performer, but it was Promise Amukamara who stepped up this time with a team-high 16 points.
Aisha Mohammed and Ezinne Kalu followed with 12 apiece.
Melisa Gretter scored a game-high 21 points for Argentina.
Coach Otis Hughley, while commending his players’ resilience, said after the game: “These players have got resolve and I have got no idea where they are digging that out from to win another close game.
“They have no reference point at this kind of level to have taken it from. That was unbelievable and there is no coaching at this point with this team.
“These kids of mine just went out, played hard and made plays again when they needed to.”
D’Tigress guard, Ezinne Kalu, also said their victory was a sweet experience.
“It feels good off the back of making history with our first win against Turkey to have now followed it up by beating Argentina.
“We’re working hard and staying focused. It is exciting for us making more and more history with a team that is very closely bonded together and we want to continue on this journey for longer,” she assured.
As second-placed team in Group B, Nigeria will now face Greece in the quarter final qualifications, and the winner of that one game will meet the USA in the quarter-finals.
Group leaders Australia secured automatic quarterfinal qualification.
The match between Nigeria and Greece is scheduled for Wednesday
EARLIER : Nigeria 74-68 Turkey FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup
Nigeria beat Turkey 74-68 on Sunday to earn their first-ever win at a FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.
The celebrations were still underway for D’Tigress of Nigeria after their first-ever FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup win, when Sarah Ogoke promised it was only the beginning.
With the noise of her team-mates partying in the locker room behind her, the guard was in bullish mood after Nigeria’s landmark 74-68 victory over Turkey.
And, she had every right to be, having dropped a team-high 22 points in the contest.
“It’s not over yet and we’re just getting started,” she smiled. “I’m not satisfied at all because to me it’s a big win, but we can’t feel comfortable until we beat Argentina and move into the next round.
“I have been playing on the national team for a while now and felt that I had a point to prove and Nigeria also had a point to prove. We’re not your typical African basketball country.”
“We have a lot of talent on this team and we have a lot of experience and we finally got the chance to show it.”
Meanwhile head coach Otis Hughley Jnr was a proud figure. Parachuted into the role only a few weeks before the tournament tipped off, he was quick to point out how well his team had done to fend off a late Turkey rescue mission.
“Turkey has been through a lot to build that program and for us to sneak a little shortcut like that. Wow, I was praying almost on my knees as we’re so inexperienced and young,” he said.
“We came through a lot of adversity and mistakes and were still able to fight off a couple of runs. We even held on with some poise when two of our main players fouled out.”
“I had been getting a little criticism for trying to get all the girls ready instead of focusing on the main stars, but I knew this kind of moment would come.
“This is not my first, second or third movie. I have seen it all too many times before in NBA, college and the FIBA game. I was just happy that my decision paid off.”
Nigeria’s final group game will be against Argentina, on Tuesday who are yet to record a victory.
The win for Nigeria also completed an impressive African double against European opposition, with Senegal having taken a thrilling 70-69 triumph against Latvia earlier in the day.
It was also their first Women’s World Cup win in 12 years although, for Traore, you have to reach even further back to truly understand how long Senegal have waited to simply taste a meaningful result in the competition.
“In 2006 we beat Nigeria in a classification game. This one (against Latvia) was an important one as the team that won was likely to move on,” said the 37-year-old.
“The team gave everything and played very well – it was great as it is a game that counts.
“For us, it was like a Final. We deserved it because the whole team wanted to win and they (Latvia) wanted it too. I congratulate all the girls and the staff because we played very well.
“It’s the first time we beat a European team and it’s a dream,” continued Traore. “It was a real objective to win one game and to advance. But we’re not going to stop here – we’re going to continue working.”
Meanwhile Senegal play-caller Cheikh Sarr declared: “It’s a historic win and we’ve broken the curse. I’m very proud because we did it. We wanted it and the girls did everything.
“They deserve it because Latvia is a very, very tough team and very strong. The key was to be very aggressive, control the tempo and then slow down, because they (Latvia) were going very fast, so we slowed it down with a zone press. The key was to stay focused and be regular in the effort.
“We’re going to rest, ice, prepare and scout for China, because they’re very tough. They have everything – guards, and bigs. So we will stay grounded and focused.
“We have to remain humble and turn ourselves towards even better horizons,” he warned.