D'Tigress: Nigeria target Women's Basketball World Cup quarter-finals

3 months ago 384
Nigeria players celebrate reaching the Fiba Women's Basketball World CupNigeria have won the past three African women's basketball titles and will represent the continent at the Fiba World Cup

Nigeria's D'Tigress will be aiming to reach the quarter-finals at the Fiba Women's Basketball World Cup later this year, according to point guard Promise Amukamara.

The side will be Africa's sole representatives at the tournament, which will take place in Sydney, Australia, in September.

D'Tigress have climbed a place to 14th in the Fiba world rankings following their showing at the World Cup qualifier in Belgrade earlier this month.

The African champions recovered from their opening day defeat to China by beating world number five France and continental rivals Mali to pick up the last available ticket on offer for Sydney.

Despite missing France-based point guard Ezinne Kalu, Amukamara joined top performers Adaora Elonu, Amy Okonkwo, Victoria Macaulay and Oderah Chidom in posting stellar performances to seal back-to-back appearances at the World Cup for Nigeria.

"This tournament was very special for us. We battled through a lot of adversity," Amukamara told the Fiba website.

"I had to step up and take on the point guard and leader role. I am not very vocal, so that was a challenge for me.

"I think this tournament was the best one for us, because we had to put absolutely everything together with no training camp or preparation. We really believed in ourselves.

"Now we just have to get back healthy and the sky is the limit. We have already shocked a lot of the world. We won't be just turning up (in Sydney) - we will have a different mind set and will be reaching for the quarter-finals."

At the 2018 World Cup in Spain, Nigeria posted the continent's best performance as they exited the tournament in the last eight.

The draw for the 2022 World Cup will take place on Thursday, 3 March in Sydney.

Bouncing back

Promise Amukamara in action for NigeriaPromise Amukamara scored 10 points to help Nigeria to a crucial qualifying victory over Mali

The second side to win three African women's basketball titles in a row, Nigeria have the credentials to back their claim as one of the continent's giants.

However, the leadership crisis within the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) overshadowed the team's preparations ahead of the qualifying tournament in Serbia.

The West Africans started on a losing note in Belgrade after suffering a 90-76 defeat in the hands of China in Group B, but they had a night to remember on day two by claiming a famous first ever win against France in a gripping 67-65 comeback success.

Victoria Macaulay was at the heart of pulling off the biggest upset of the tournament, with a superb 19 points, five steals, four rebounds and four assists.

It was a pulsating end on the last day against familiar rivals Mali.

Cruising with a 21-point lead, Nigeria almost self-destructed as Mali turned up the defensive pressure, dragging it back to a one-shot game inside the last minute. Nonetheless, Amy Okonkwo starred with 14 points and Amukamara produced 10 points as D'Tigress managed to cling on for a 73-69 victory.

"I think fatigue set in and only having one point guard made it tough against a team in survival mode," reflected Nigeria head coach Otis Hughley Jr.

"But seriously, hats off to Mali and their undying effort. Credit to their coach who did such an amazing job and Mali almost flipped the script.

"But our girls took the punch and we're off to Sydney - we're just happy about that."

For Africa's other representative, Mali, it was an opportunity lost to make history and reach the main event for the first time.

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