Nigeria’s men basketball national team D’Tigers were dethroned as African Champions on Saturday, after a 77-65 defeat to co-hosts Tunisia in the final of the 2017 Afrobasket Championship.
D’Tigers reached the final after defeating co-hosts and fierce rivals Senegal 76-71 in an explosive semi-final match on Friday to set up a clash with the Tunisians, who sent Morocco packing 60-52 in the other semi-final tie.
It was sweet revenge for the Tunisians, who were beaten 70-59 by D’Tigers in the semi-finals of the 2015 AfroBasket in Tunis.
Alex Nwora’s side managed to win the first quarter of the game before surrendering to the superior firepower of the North Africans in the next two quarters and earning a draw in the final phase of the game.
D’Tigers, who were trying to become the first team to successfully defend the title since Angola won it in 2007 and 2009, started on a bright note, cruising past the hosts 14–8 in the first quarter but that was as far as it got, as they lost the second 17-10.
Backed by a vociferous home crowd at the packed Salle Omnisport de Rades, Radès, on the outskirts of Tunis, Tunisia used clutch three-point shooting to keep Nigeria at bay in the second half. And the tactics paid off, as they won the third quarter 27-16.
But D’Tigers managed a last roar to defend their title in the final phase of the game, but it was too little too late as the fourth quarter ended 25–25 to earn the hosts a 77-65 win and a second African title.
Ike Diogu led with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Ziyed Chennoufi led Tunisia with 19 points.
captain Diogu was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Diogu, alongside teammate Ikenna Iroegbu, Tunisia duo Mohamed Hadidane and Mourad El Mabrouk, as well as Senegal’s Gorgui Dieng were named in the tournament’s All-Star team.
The hardworking Diogu was the highest scorer at the championship averaging 22.4 points per game in his five appearances in Rades.
Iroegbu had the highest number of assists per game (5.6), while Tunisian Makram Ben Romdhane had the best rebounds per game (10.6) at the tournament.
Only Ike Diogu made D’Tigers squad from the 2015 cup-winning squad with the likes of key players Chamberlain Oguchi, Seni Lawal, Aminu brothers Al-Farouq and Alade missing out. Tunisia also played the tournament without Salah Mejri, a 7-foot-2 centre for the Dallas Mavericks. Mejri, who is recovering from a knee injury, was the MVP of Tunisia’s title run in the 2011 AfroBasket.
Nigeria beat Ivory Coast 78-77 in their first Group A match, beat Mali 90-67 but lost 83-77 to DR Congo in their final group game. They defeated Cameroon 106-91 in the quarter-final on Thursday before Friday’s win over Senegal.