Controversial decisions, frenzied atmosphere and restless fans, the rivalry between Nigeria and Cameroon in football is very well documented. The occasion is where a moment of glory could turn into one of despair within the blink of an eye, it is one where heroes have been made, and dreams have been shattered. That rivalry now seems to have moved beyond the grass field of the football pitch and into the hardwood of the basketball court as both teams battled it out last night for a place in the 2015 Afrobasket Final.
The scene was all too familiar for some members of the Nigerian team, the past 4 editions has seen the team stumble in the knockout stages of the tournament , that was again the scene Friday evening after D’Tigress fell to Cameroon, 71-70, in the 2015 Afrobasket semi-finals at City Area, in Yaoundé Cameroon.
Nigeria and Cameroon battled back and forth in the first quarter, but it was Sarah Ogoke and Helen Ogunjimi who connected on back to back 3-pointers to fuel a 10-2 run for Nigeria as they took a 23-15 lead in the quarter.
The second quarter saw Nigeria get into the penalty with 7 minutes left until the break, with the turnovers starting to mount and the team playing without the defensive presence of Ndidi Madu who had to sit out after taking a knock, Cameroon went on an 8-2 run in the middle of the quarter to bring themselves back into the game, the game was tied 36-36 by half time after Cameroon converted on two made free throws.
Both teams could not be separated in the third quarter as baskets were traded at either end of the court. Two made freethrows by Adaora Elonu gave Nigeria the lead as they entered into the final period 51-49 ahead.
In the fourth, Cameroon came out with an early 6-0 run to take a five point lead, Nigeria responded straight away scoring five points in a row as Upe Atosu connected on a three-pointer to regain the lead back for Nigeria, the score continued to swing either way with both teams trying to wrestle for dominance. There was controversy with 5 minutes left as Ramses Lonlack was awarded with hitting a three-pointer for Cameroon even though replays showed that her foot was on the line, that decision would come back to haunt Nigeria at the end of the game.
A 3-pointer by Joyce Ekworomadu gave Nigeria a 68-67 lead with a minute and a half left in the game, Cameroon responded at the other end with two made free throws to take the lead back however, Madu will score two more to give Nigeria the lead yet again at 70-69. After a timeout called, Njonkou for Cameroon hit a tough jumper to put Cameroon ahead yet again. Despite a couple of bad decisions by Nigeria towards the final stretch, the team still had one more opportunity to win the game however Joyce Ekoworomadu was unable to convert on a fast break attempt as Cameroon sealed the victory 71-70.
Turnovers were the main concern for the Nigeria team who racked up 17 in the game, most of them unforced. Despite battling foul trouble, Ndidi Madu almost finished with a double double with 9 points and 9 rebounds, Adaora Elonu finished with 17 rebounds and 7 assist for Nigeria who will now face off with Angola tomorrow for a Bronze Medal and a place in the Olympic Qualifying tournament.