It’s Nigeria and Senegal for FIBA Women Afrobasket final

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…Nigeria stops host Rwanda and Senegal eliminates Mali in the semi finals

…It’s not how you start, but how you finish – Senegalese point guard, Cierra Dillard

By Maxwell Kumoye and Mishael Emmanuel

Nigeria and Senegal are through to the final of the 2023 FIBA Women’s Afrobasket Championship taking place in Kigali, Rwanda.

Nigeria that will be seeking a fourth straight crown on Saturday at the BK Arena defeated host Rwanda in the first semi finals on Thursday 79-48 to set a clash with Senegal.

Nigeria, the defending champions were in a class of their own in every aspect of the game as they sealed the lips of thousands of Rwandans that thronged the BK Arena to drum support for their ladies.

D’Tigress established a 26 points lead at half time, the ladies from Paul Kagame’s land cut the lead at the end of the third quarter to 23 points.

Rwanda’s tormentor-in-chief Amy Okonkwo, led D’Tigresses to victory with a game-high of 23 points, while Tomi Taiwo followed with 12 points to her name. 10 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 assists was also part of Okonkwo’s stats.

D’Tigress’ center forward, Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah could not hide her joy after extend their winning streak on the Continent to 23-0 and head towards a fourth consecutive FIBA Women’s AfroBasket title.

“I feel relieved, honored. The team that won two years ago was a phenomenal team. But I think this team as well can fill those shoes. Under the leadership of coach Rena, we are in a good spot to repeat that win.” Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah, said.

Before D’Tigress left for Kigali to defend the diadem they won in Yaoundé, there were questions about their ability to reach this stage of the championship. However with the solid outing so far on the court, Coach Rena Wakama says the job must be completed on Saturday.

“There’s no secret. But they should be empowered. I believed in them. And I put a lot of confidence. And here we are doing amazing things. Team work and confidence in them, and we see the results.”

To return to Abuja with the title they won three times in a row, Wakama and her ladies must disposed of Senegal a team D’Tigress defeated in final four years ago in front of their home fans in Dakar and two years earlier in Bamako, the Malian capital.

The hospitable Lionesses of Senegal reached their first Women’s AfroBasket final since 2019 with a 10 points margin win, 75-65 over Mali that had beaten them in the group stage of this Championship 72-49.

All eyes will be on Cierra Dillard who is enjoying a fabulous outing in Kigali as she accounted for 33 points to help Senegal seal the victory against Mali.

Senegal’s win over Mali means Nigeria remain as the only undefeated team (4-0) in the Championship.

After the grueling encounter, Cierra Dillard, Senegal point guard says: “It’s not the same scenario as in 2015, but our captain was there and she kept repeating that anything is possible. Not that 2015 is going to repeat itself, but that anything is possible and that we had to keep fighting. It’s not how you start, but how you finish. I’m gunning for a title here. My main focus is to continue to help the team in any way I can. So I’ll do my part by keeping the mentality that I have. To overcome Mali, we just focused on the inside. They have a great inside team, so we focused on blocking them and that did the job.”

In the other two classification games played also on Thursday, Cameroon dealt with Guinea 74-37 and Mozambique overpowered Uganda 88-62.

Today, Cameroon meets Mozambique for 5th and 6th spot while Uganda faces Guinea for 7th and 8th positions.

Today is rest day at the Championship for all the semi finalists, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Rwanda.

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