Rivers Hoopers Make Basketball Africa League History, Advance to S’final

Duro Ikhazuagbe with agency report

Rivers Hoopers made history yesterday becoming the first Nigerian basketball club to qualify for the semi final stage of the ongoing Basketball Africa League (BAL) in Kigali, Rwanda.

The Nigerian side defeated former BAL champions US Monastir of Tunisia 92-88 to reach the last four stage.

Rivers Hoopers will now play Libya’s Al Ahly in the semifinals on Wednesday to determine which of the two teams will make it to the final.

The Port Harcourt team coached by Ogoh Odaudu were simply amazing, as they played their hearts out, fighting for every possession on the court of the BK Arena in the Rwandan capital.

The Hoopers’ determination was so intense that they trailed by just one point (16-15) in the opening quarter, but, once they regained the lead, they never looked back, leading by as many as 12 points.

In his third BAL season, after two consecutive stints with Ferroviário da Beira, Will Perry had only one goal in mind, to try the BAL Playoffs experience.

And he played one his best BAL games.

On Monday, Perry shot 9-for-15 to finish with a game-high of 33 points while dishing out 5 assists.

“This team is built to compete,” he said days before the start of the Sahara Conference.

“We were super focused,” Perry explained when asked about the team’s mental state before and during the game against an US Monastir team they shared one win apiece during the Sahara Conference.

“Monastir are really hard to guard because they have Chris Crawford playing the pick-and-roll really well and (Ater) Majok is a super good screener. We struggled little bit with that part of it, but at the end, our offense took over.”

Perry expressed how he felt after the win , saying, “I am super happy for Rivers Hoopers club, they deserve it because they prepared the right way and they took it seriously.”

“Coach is a humble man, and a great coach and he deserves it.”

“I am super happy for Port Harcourt and the country of Nigeria,” Perry told http://bal.nba.comafter the victory over the Tunisian side.

Rivers Hoopers team manager Ifie Ozaka, the man behind Rivers Hoopers’ rebuilding, was lost for words minutes after the game.

He stopped by to talk to the bal.nba.com.

Ozaka shed light on their BAL journey.

“It has been an amazing journey since 2021 when we came here as newcomers,” Ozaka said.

“We only won one game at the time,” he recalled.

“What we did differently was that we went back and prepared. We came here because we want to be at the podium.”

“We knew the kind of players we wanted on and off court. We spent some good money getting these players. This is a team. It’s not a group of individuals, that’s what we were able to build. This success is a team effort.”

After finishing 1-2 during the inaugural season of the BAL and missing the following two seasons, the Nigerian champions felt it was time for a change.

Right at the start of the 2024 BAL season, Odaudu warned they were built and prepared to make history – and history was indeed made.

It all started early this month in Dakar, Senegal, where they won the Sahara Conference with a convincing 4-2 mark.

Even though the Hoopers fell short to AS Douanes in the classification round in Kigali, they stepped up when it mattered most, and US Monastir paid the price for facing a team eager to rewrite their BAL history.

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