Sports

Coach Wakama-led D’Tigress into final, seek fourth consecutive title


D’Tigress are through to the 2023 FIBA Women’s AfroBasket tournament with a statement win as they trounced hosts Rwanda 70-50 at the BK Arena on Thursday evening to book their place in Saturday’s final, where they will face either Senegal or Mali.

Amy Okonkwo was again at the forefront, with 23 points and ten defensive rebounds. Olaoluwatomi Taiwo added 12 points, while Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah and Elizabeth Balogun each posted 10 points.

The Nigerian team scored 22 points in the first and second quarters to take a commanding 44-18 lead into the third quarter.

Rwanda won the third quarter 17-14, but that was all the joy the home audience got as D’Tigress roared back in the fourth quarter to win the match 79-48, a stunning 31-point victory.

That win takes Nigeria’s record to 23 unbeaten within 40 minutes of winning the title for a fourth consecutive time. Meanwhile, Coach Rena Wakama became the first woman to lead a team to the final of a FIBA Women’s AfroBasket tournament.


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Fiery in red Rena Wakama
Fiery in red Rena Wakama

Despite the many changes, Coach Wakama has, in a short time, built a team that is decimating the field on the way to making history. The 31-year-old said at the post-match press conference that the players have made her job easy. “Just a lot of belief. When you empower people, there is a lot they can do, she said, adding that the victories do not have much to with her but with the players, who have a lot of belief in their abilities.

Coach Wakama revealed that being female and close to the players’ ages has been instrumental in getting the team up to speed in a very short time. “Representation matters. When they see someone who looks like them, probably not too far off in terms of age, it is easy for them to buy in. I have been in their shoes-maybe eight years ago.


READ ALSO: 2023 FIBA Women’s AfroBasket: Nigeria’s D’Tigress defeat Egypt, qualify for quarter-final


“They trust me because I’ve been there, and I am able to empower them in that way.” Kunaiyi-Akpannah added that though the team is completely different from the last one in 2021, the players continue to believe in each other and push each other to continue winning.

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Coach Wakama has called on five players from the 2021 winning D’Tigress roster; Kunaiyi-Akpannah, Okonkwo, Murjanatu Musa, Sarah Ogoke, and Nicole Enabosi.

In an interview with Vanguard after her surprise appointment, Wakama said, “I know that I am more than ready; I know that I am the right one for the job. That’s pretty much what I am saying. I know I can lead this team, and I know I can make Nigeria proud. There are a lot of talents back home, and I want to do this not just for the players but for the coaches too.”

This Coach Wakama-led D’Tigress has surprised many by blitzing the field, and they are now odds-on favourites to go all the way to a fourth consecutive title on Saturday.


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