Nigeria’s national women’s basketball team, D’Tigress, are through to the 2022 World Cup after a tense win over Mali on Sunday in Belgrade.
The Women Basketball World Cup is billed to hold in Australia this year.
Despite a 20-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter, the Malians made a game of it and moved to within two points of their Nigerian opponents in the last seconds of the encounter that ended 73-69.
Coach Otis Hughley sent out a starting five of Promise Amukamara, Adaora Elonu, Atonye Nyingifa, Oderah Chidom, and Victoria Macaulay against Mali, whom D’Tigress beat in the final of the 2021 AfroBasket tournament.
Amukamara made the first point from a free throw after a foul by Assetou Traore and she also made the second. Touty Gandega replied for the physically-aggressive Malians, who knew they had to beat the Nigerian ladies to stand any chance of qualification.
The first quarter was like a war of attrition as the lead went back and forth but the Malians ended the quarter with a two-point lead, 22-20.
Amy Okonkwo made it 22-22 with two free throws after being fouled by Kamite Elisabeth Dabou. Nassira Traore gave the Malians the lead again with a jump shot.
Atonye Nyingifa drew Nigeria level at 24-24 with two free throws and D’Tigress went ahead for the first time after taking the lead at the beginning of the game through Elonu. The lead turned over to the Malians with four minutes left on the second-quarter clock through Nassira Traore.
Nyingifa gave Nigeria back the lead and then added a free throw to give D’Tigress a two-point lead. From there the Nigerian ladies never looked back and they ended the second quarter with a seven-point lead at 42-35.
D’Tigress grew stronger and took the lead to 20 as they ended the third quarter 64-44. In the fourth quarter, the Malians fought back and whittled the lead down to six with less than two minutes on the clock at which point Coach Hughley called for a timeout.
Nigeria called a timeout with 14 seconds left on the clock. Nyingifa was fouled and made her two free throws to give Nigeria a four-point lead and that was how it ended sending D’Tigress to their second consecutive appearance at the World Cup.