Tenerife, Spain : Nigeria women basketball team D’Tigress have crashed out of the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup after losing to reigning world champions USA 71-40 in their quarter-final clash played on Friday, September 28.
D’Tigress started the game on an encouraging note as they held USA to nine points in the first quarter, the first time ever that happened to USA in World Cup/Olympics history.
“Nigeria will go down in history as the first team to hold USA under 10 points in a Q1 at World Cups and Olympics, and the first team to hold USA to less than 10 points in any quarter since Russia in 2006. Ezinne Kalu was a big reason for it, with 5 steals to her name.” FIBA said.
Unfortunately, Nigeria’s female Basketball team couldn’t sustain the tempo against the defending champions.
Speaking at the end of the game, the D’Tigress’ Head Coach, Otis Hughley Jr said, “I love these girls. I have two biological daughters and I feel like I have 12 more daughters. I thought they fought really well in the first half. I think the difference in the game is who shot well. I thought we played exponentially above what we have. Our girls dug down until there was nothing left. I’ve never felt so happy after a 31-point loss.”
One of the Nigerian players, Evelyn Akhator said, “I really love the team so much. It’s my first year of playing for the national team and this is the best group ever. Our commitment and dedication is something special. I can’t wait to play with this group again. It’s huge to come here from Nigeria and finish in the top eight of the competition.”
For her part, USA play-caller, Dawn Staley said, “It was a hard fought game. Nigeria came out and pressured us and it bothered us probably in the first 20 minutes of the game, and then we made an adjustment in the style of play. We started making plays. Hats go off to Nigeria, but at the same time I am proud of the team for making the adjustments needed and turning it around in the first.”
Nigeria beat Greece and Turkey to get into the quarter-finals, a feat never achieved by an African nation in Basketball.
This brings the end of the road for D’Tigress after having made history at the tournament by beating Turkey to earn their first-ever win at a FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup. They also defeated Argentina and Greece to get to the quarter-final stage.
Belgium capture hearts with beautiful basketball
It hasn’t sunk in yet and there is no time for Ann Wauters and Belgium to even try and absorb the magnitude of their accomplishments at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2018.
After all, there’s a Semi-Final against reigning champions, USA to play. Then 24 hours later, it will be either a fairytale Final, or let’s face it, a fairytale 3rd-Place Game when they could match that historic bronze medal they took last year at the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket.
Such was the vibrancy of the debutantes’ derby demolition of France, basketball fans and personalities couldn’t get enough of a team that is playing with such dynamism. Plaudits for their breathtaking style have been flooding in – and deservedly so. But, this deluge of praise is difficult to process even for a veteran like Wauters .
“I think we’re just living this moment,” smiled the forward. “We’re trying to enjoy it to the fullest, but I think we don’t realize yet what we’re doing and it’s not only important for us and our team, but for basketball in Belgium. We keep going and enjoying it. There’s a lot of potential in this team and I hope we can still grow.
“Our goal was to be in the top eight, because we really wanted to be in the tournament here in Tenerife until the end. So, we were extremely happy when we beat Spain (on Tuesday in the last game of the Group Phase to win Group C and directly qualify for the Quarter-Finals) and now everything beyond that is a bonus.”
“I think we played an awesome game (against France). I think we were very enthusiastic. We played fast basketball, we had some easy baskets that gave us a lot of confidence and we kept attacking them.
“On defense, we were pretty solid too. We managed to stop their inside game a bit and then we controlled the game pretty well.
“Even though we’re not that experienced as a team, I think we did a great job of controlling this game and we almost have no words to describe what it means to us to be in the Semi-Finals of a World Cup. It’s pretty unbelievable for us.”
There was a sense that the more Wauters spoke of her emotions, the more that the gravity of what the team was achieving was beginning to sink in.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play for world class teams in different countries and to win a lot of titles but this is just special,”enthused Wauters. “It’s the national team, it’s your country that you’re representing. It means a lot to me. I’m so happy and grateful that I’m still here, that I can still enjoy it, that I can still be a part of this team.
“It’s so amazing that I can share that with my own kids and they will have the memories of it as they’re old enough now. So it’s pretty great.”
What has been particularly captivating about Belgium’s historical ride into the last four is that it has come with some eye-catching performances from the next generation. Not least, Julie Allemand, who handed out 13 assists against France to tie the All-Time record in the competition.
“She’s so young and has so much potential and we’re so happy to have her with us,” said Wauters of a player who missed last year’s high tide mark in Prague and had spoken to FIBA.basketball on the eve of her stellar display.
“She can still grow a lot so that’s a bright future for her and us. You can see them (the new generation), how well they’re playing and how much potential they have. I think the really strongest quality of our team is that we want to do it for each other.
“Nobody is selfish, nobody wants to look for individual prizes. We really want to do this as a team and everybody wants to get the best out of each other.”
“I think for a lot of the younger players, it’s a dream to now play against USA,” the 37-year-old insisted. “They’ve been working very hard and now to be able to play against their idols, it’s great for them.
“We will try to give our best and see where we end. We have no pressure and nothing to lose. We’re just going to enjoy the game.”