Nigeria’s D’Tigers qualified for the final of the 2015 Afrobasket after defeating Senegal 88-79 in overtime in a pulsating semi-final game played in Rades, Tunisia, on Saturday. Nigeria will meet the winners of the other semi-final match between hosts Tunisia and favourites Angola, in the final on Sunday.
The game ended 76-76 after a late resurgence by the Senegalese but Nigeria proved their superiority in overtime, with Chamberlain Oguchi the Nigerian hero as his double three point shots helped D’Tigers to a first final appearance in 12 years.
Senegal, who last won the AfroBasket in 1997, entered the semi-final averaging 78 points per game, while Nigeria were the highest scoring team in the tournament with 83.2 points per game before the game at the Salle Omnisport de Rades.
Nigeria have never won the event before, and now stand a chance of winning it for the first time and seal an automatic spot at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
The West African rivalry, a match-up between the two tallest teams in the tournament, lived up to its billing as Nigeria romped to an 18-15 win in the first quarter but Senegal came on strong in the second, winning 22-17. They won the third quarter 26-22 but Nigeria bounced back with a 19-13 win in the final quarter.
Sharpshooter Oguchi made eight of his 13 three-pointers to lead all scorers with 28 points, while Gorgui Dieng, who spent the entire 45 minutes and was in foul limit, propelled Senegal with 20 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.
It was a balanced game with seven lead changes. Nigeria’s nine-point lead in the second was short-lived as Ibrahima Thomas hit a three-pointer with three seconds to give Senegal a 37-35 half-time lead.
But when Nigeria entered the final minute of the regulation leading 76-73, Dieng thought they needed extra five minutes, making a three-pointer to tie the contest at 76-76.
D’Tigers’ team rotation proved crucial as their bench came with a pivotal 21-point contribution. Hardworking Olaseni Lawal stepped on the floor to do whatever it was needed for his team. By the end of the first quarter Lawal led Nigeria with 11 points.
Senegal had won all of their five games coming into this tie, while Nigeria won all but one, losing their final group game against Tunisia 70-59. They defeated Central Africa Republic in the first game 88-63; beat Uganda 98-59 before tearing Mozambique to shreds 83-47 in the Round of 16.
In the quarter-finals, D’Tigers defeated Gabon 88-64.