Lagos — Even though the national junior basketball team camped for barely two weeks in Lagos before flying out to Durban, South Africa for the 15th African Junior Men's Basketball Championship (AJUBBA), the young Nigerians yesterday won the African Cup after they defeated Mali 69-41 in the final game.
The victory achieved before 4.00pm Nigerian time meant that the Junior Tigers, as the junior national basketball team are nicknamed, retained the African Cup they won four years ago in Cairo before moving on the following year to represent the continent at the world level in Greece 2003. And with this success in South Africa, the Junior Tigers and their counterparts from Mali would represent Africa at the 2007 FIBA Junior Men' Championship billed for Canada next July.
"We thank God for this victory and we are quite glad we didn't disappoint those waiting for us back home in
Nigeria," Oseer Ikyatoor, the team captain said moments after he lifted the giant trophy at the sport centre of the Institute of Technology, Durban.
His coach Daudu Adeka, who knelt down on the court in obeisance to God after the buzzer, was practically short of words.
"This is the best thing happening to me; to these players and indeed every Nigeria," he said.
Before the final game yesterday the Malians had knocked out the highly rated Angolans at the semi-final played Saturday and this meant that the Malians did not drop any game until they met Nigeria.
The improved rating only counted with Nigeria in the first quarter of the game. At half time Nigeria led 27-17. When the match resumed the difference became very clear as the Junior Tigers jumped to a 30-point lead as the scores read 48-17 before the Malians made their first point after the break. Thereafter it practically became a one sided affair as the several time out calls hardly changed anything for the Malians.
Adeka and his assistant in South Africa Masai Ujiri were in Cairo four years ago as assistant coaches in the team. Nigeria won the cup for the very first time in 1987 when the championship was held in Lagos.
The victorious players are expected back at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos tomorrow aboard a South African Airways flight. The head of the delegation Ricky Agu confirmed the schedule yesterday on the phone to THISDAYSports.
"We should be landing Lagos by about 8.30pm on Tuesday," Agu said.