First Bank’s Elephant Girls Show Quality at FIBA Africa Champions Cup Women
In what was a jostle for superiority, Zenith Women Basketball League Champions, First Bank of Nigeria blew aside all group opposition at the 2018 FIBA Africa Champions Cup for Women in Maputo, Mozambique, and quickly made themselves the team to beat at the tournament. At the last two FIBAACCW tournaments, they had settled for third place but were looking for higher glory this time, showing early signs of actively just that.
The Lagos-based club parading the D’Tigress quintet of Sarah Ogoke, Cecilia Okoye, Aisha Mohammed, Nkem Akaraiwe and Nkechi Akashili qualified for the quarter-final of the continental tournament with a 4-0 group-stage record after going unbeaten past their Group B opponents.
The team coached by Peter Ahmedu began their campaign with an emphatic 74-40 win against MB2ALL of Madagascar, with the Nigerians dominating their opponents, and four of their players finishing with double digit scoring points – Jasmine Nwajei (17), Mfutila Makiese (13), Akashili (12), and Nyree Green (12).
The Elephant Girls followed up that winning start with a 95-71 result against KPA of Kenya, having Mfutila Makiese as the leading scorer for the Nigerians with 21 points, 13 rebounds and two assists. First Bank made it three wins from three with a big performance against Lakers of Zimbabwe, 86-56. They impressively extended their winning streak, wrapping up their group games with a fourth victory on the bounce, winning 83-45 against INSS of DR Congo.
The result was never in doubt for the Nigerians, who comfortably won all four quarters, with Makiese once again emerging as the leading scorer with 15 points.
Their next contest was the quarter-final contest against FAP of Cameroon which would see them make it to top four with a win; which they did but by a very slim 3-point margin. The Elephant Girls were eager to get a chance at ending the the dominance of five-time Africa record champions InterClube of Angola, very hopeful of continuing their unbeaten run beyond the Cameroonians.
In 2017, the Elephant Girls were drawn with InterClube in the 3rd place game, in which they beat them for a repeat of their previous year feat. This time, InterClube scaled through to the final, but the Elephant Girls hit a stop to their fine form as they lost to the hosts – Ferroviario de Maputo – who won them 72 – 59.
This set up a final for Ferroviario de Maputo vs InterClube of Angola, and a third place game for the Elephant Girls against the Vita Club of DR Conge, who were 2017 Champions. First Bank returned to winning ways with a 93-69 game to clinch bronze. At the final stage, hosts, Ferroviario de Maputo made a good account of themselves with a 59 – 56 win over InterClube to become 2018 Champions!
This year has been a good year for Nigerian basketball following a good showing by the women’s team D’Tigress at the World Cup, and now a bronze medal. No doubt, there will be more interesting times ahead if this pace is kept and more talents are groomed.