Nigeria will fly the flag for Africa at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 in Sydney after they scooped up the last available ticket on offer in Belgrade.
Following on from the euphoria of their historic win against France, they repeated that feeling of joy, but also mixed with a palpable sense of relief by completing a 73-69 victory against Continental rivals Mali.
Coasting 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. However, Nigeria managed to cling on and seal back-to-back appearances at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.
“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. after the final buzzer had sounded.
“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,” he added.
Promise Amukamara had 10 points and 8 assists and the playmaker added: “This tournament was very special for us. We battled through a lot of adversity. 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.”
She continued: “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 mindset and will be reaching for the Quarter-Finals.”
D’Tigress join host nation Australia, Serbia, France, China, and Korea in advancing to Sydney via the Serbian capital, while Mali reflect on an opportunity lost to make history and reach the main event for the first time.