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D'Tigress' record AfroBasket triumph – Tribune Online

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ON Saturday, August 5, the Nigerian national women’s basketball team, D’Tigress, emerged champions of Africa once again following their 84-74 win over Senegal in the final of the 2023 FIBA Women’s AfroBasket tournament held in  Kigali, Rwanda. In a huge shock to bookmakers who had given the team unenthusiastic ratings because of the large number of ‘rookies’, D’Tigress became only the second team after Senegal to clinch four consecutive AfroBasket titles. The win is indeed historic: when the D’Tigress filed out in the green-white-green of Nigeria in 2017, it was with a lot of concern, as they had waited for a title for 12 solid years. But all of that was to change as they brought glory to Nigeria by winning the gold medal. Since then, they have refused to shift ground, clinching the gold medal in the 2019 and 2021 editions of the games, with this year’s gold medal being a glorious icing on the cake. That was not all: the team’s coach, Rena Wakama, became the first female coach to win the competition since its inception in 1966, a remarkable record considering that the 31-year-old Raleigh, North Carolina-born coach of Okrika, Rivers State descent was appointed less than a month before the competition kicked off in Rwanda.
In a pattern that recalled the heroics of Coach Walid Regragui and the Atlas Lions of Morocco at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Wakama and her ladies announced their presence in Rwanda with a bang right from their first game against Congo DRC. They won all their matches at the tournament. The Amy Okonkwo-led ladies recorded 29 points and 13 rebounds to gain an 83-65 win over Egypt and book a place in the quarterfinal, then defeated hosts Rwanda in the semi-final played at the BK Arena in Kigali. D’Tigress were dominant all through the four quarters of the match, recording 22-6, 22-12, 17-14 and 13-21 to coast home to a 79-48 victory. Indeed, in a post-match news conference, Head Coach of Rwanda, Sheik Caar, lauded Nigeria as a powerhouse of African basketball, saying that the Nigerian ladies made three pointers look so  easy.
During the final game played at the GK Arena in Kigali, D’Tigress won the first quarter 19-10 and the second quarter 24-21. Though the Senegalese ladies fought back and won the third quarter 26-19, pegging Nigeria’s lead to just five points, the reigning AfroBasket champions were fully determined to hold on to their crown: they won the last quarter 22-17 to post an 84-74 final tally and send their supporters into wild esctasy. The match extended their unbeaten run to 24 games. With the Kigali win, Nigeria now has six gold medals in total, having triumphed  at the 2003 and 2005 editions of the tournament, before emerging champions at Bamako, Mali, in 2017;  Dakar, Senegal, in 2019, and  Yaounde, Cameroon,  in 2021; and now, Kigali, Rwanda. The victory means that D’Tigress will now compete for a spot at the women’s basketball event of the 2024 Olympics.
Reacting to the victory, President Bola Tinubu  congratulated the African champions on the “well deserved fourth consecutive AfroBasket Women’s Championship,” saying that the country was very proud of them. In the same vein, the House of Representatives congratulated the team, saying that its triumph demonstrated that women and girls could thrive in every area of human endeavour. In a statement signed by Akin Rotimi, its spokesperson, and Ekene Adams, chairman of the Committee on Sports, the Green Chamber said: “The historic fourth consecutive win is a testament to the virtues of consistency, diligence, and teamwork which they have eminently demonstrated in stamping their dominance of the game on the continent. The incredible display of talent and the signature Nigerian ‘can do’ spirit was a delight to watch for all Nigerians and fans of the game across the world. They have brought honour and pride to Nigerians, and we owe them our deepest gratitude. We congratulate the entire team on this feat, including Amy Okonkwo, who finished as the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. We also celebrate the head coach, Rena Wakama, who made history as the first female to lead a team to win the AfroBasket tournament and the entire management and technical team.”
We join millions of Nigerians in congratulating D’Tigress on the Rwanda triumph. If anything, Rwanda 2023 shows that Nigeria has a crop of stars that can hold their own against any team in the world provided that there is the appropriate sporting facilities and requisite technical support. Over the years, Nigerian athletes in general, and not just the national women’s basketball team, have refused to be bogged down by the huge difficulties inherent in sports management in the country and put the world on notice of their raw talent and determination. In the case of D’Tigress, the success story is particularly exhilarating because it has come against a backdrop of general disenchantment in the country over the adverse sociopolitical and socioeconomic environment. Even if temporarily, Nigerians have some cause for cheer, and can hold their heads up high, basking in the euphoria of D’Tigress’ phenomenal outing in Rwanda.
We urge the Federal Government to reward the team and the coaching crew handsomely as a way of encouraging them to do even more for the country going forward. The First Lady, Mrs Oluremi Tinubu, has already hosted the team and the coaching crew to a reception at the State House in Abuja, but the presidency needs to host them to show appreciation for their efforts. No doubt, Nigeria has one of the most successful women’s basketball teams on the African continent. However, the continental success is yet to be replicated on the global stage. Apart from reaching the quarterfinals of the 2018 FIBA World Cup, the team has struggled on the world stage. It has failed to qualify for the global fiesta many times. This is a challenge that the sports ministry and the basketball federation must take very seriously and work towards overcoming, especially by putting in place a much more responsive management of sporting activities, state-of-the-art facilities, and a better recruitment and reward system to make the country one of the world’s best basketball powerhouses. We celebrate D’Tigress and wish them greater successes in future tournaments.

© 2023 Tribune Online – an online publication of African Newspapers of Nigeria Plc. All rights reserved
© 2023 Tribune Online – an online publication of African Newspapers of Nigeria Plc. All rights reserved
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