Nigeria’s D’Tigers celebrating their qualification
Nigeria’s D’Tigers survived a third quarter run by the Dominican Republic to secure the final ticket to the men’s basketball event of the London Olympics early hours of yesterday, winning 88-73 in Caracas, Venezuela.
D’ Tigers simply had too many weapons and brought all to bear. Despite being forced to change from their lucky all-green kit in which they are yet to be beaten - the Nigerians senior basketball team looked just as comfortable in their back up all white.
Ike Diogu was a monster especially in the fourth quarter when D’Tiger repeatedly dialled his number. But so was Aminu Junior who swatted away Dominican balls all night ending up with a five of the Nigeria's eight blocks. His game was of such quality that the hardest decision of the night was who would win MVP, him or Diogu?
The Dominicans though were no slouches and despite falling behind by double digits went on repeated runs that saw them tie once and come within two the second time.
One Martinez rained destruction from far and the other went through the middle almost all night long. University of Kentucky's Coach Calipari and NBA journey man Dale Harris were at the helm of the Dominican ship and their savvy showed.
But so did Coach Ayo Bakare's. He used his bench perfectly - kick starting his defence as well as attack with the substitution of his role players. Even absolutely horrible shooting from the line could not derail his cats whose eyes never left the prize.
At the end of night it was him doing the dancing in the middle of the floor while his players celebrated with their fans high up in the stands.
Considering that Nigeria beat both the number four and five teams in the world before dismissing the team from the Caribbean, there was no doubt that the rightful team along with Russia and Lithuania are going to the London Olympics.
Nigeria now joins Tunisia as Africa's two representatives and is tipped to go far in the tournament.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Sports and Chairman of the National Sports Commission, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi has congratulated the Nigerian male basketball team, D’Tigers for qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics by grabbing the third spot at the FIBA Olympics Qualifier which took place in Caracas, Venezuela.
Abdullahi said the team showed unusual passion, discipline and commitment, which are hallmarks of the Nigerian spirit.
In a congratulatory letter to the President of the Nigerian Basketball Federation, Tijani Umar, the minister wrote:
“With the kind of overwhelming joy that followed this historic achievement across our country where people stayed awake to follow the match, one cannot but feel that perhaps, a revolution is about to happen in Nigerian sports and this may ultimately be a triumph for basketball.
According to him, “the ‘boys’ can be confident that a grateful nation will remember for a long time to come that they, with typical Nigerian grits and determination, have extended the frontiers of our achievements in sports by qualifying our country for the men's basketball events of the Olympic for the first time ever.
He however urged the team not to be lulled by its present victory but to focus on the ultimate prize.
“The destination is London. And, I have no doubt in my mind, that with the Almighty God on our side and with the same commitment and will to excel, D'Tigers will triumph in London and your names would be written in gold.”
Responding to the Minister’s charge, Umar, the President of the NBBF commended the effort of the minister towards ensuring the team’s qualification to the Games and vowed that the team would always do its best.
With the qualification, the 12-member basketball team will now join 42 other Nigerian athletes for the London 2012 Olympics Games starting on July 27 through August 12.