Photo Cred: FIBA
Tunisia, the Tournament ride stops for the #AfroBasket2017 Final between Nigeria & Tunisia. It’s 10 AM Pacific time. I’ve only caught the replay on my cell phone via BasketballTV.co. The service which covers all FIBA basketball is $10 per month, what a month it’s been.
#0 B. Mbamalu, #1 I. Iroegbu, #2 K. Anuna, #3 A. Odunsi, #4 A. Dike, #5 A. Akingbala, #6 Ike Diogu, #7 A. Akindele, #11 A. Yahaya, #15 O. Akamune, #32 D. Ochefu, #34 N. Nwamu.
#4 O. Abada, #5 Z. Chennoufi, #7 M. El Mabrouk, #8 O. Mouhli, #9 M. Hadidane, #10 B. Hadidane, #11 M. Ghyaza, #12 M. Ghyaza, #23 F. Lahiani, #28 M. Rassil, #45 R. Simane, #66 N. Knioua.
The scene as both countries listened to their national anthems was awe inspiring. After watching four Angola games between Dakar, Senegal and Tunisia, spattered with empty seats, the arena this night was packed to the gills. With 12,000 strong and a brilliant wave of cell phone light I thought, “This game shall be remembered & cherished for the ages.”
Oh look, there’s former Dub Ike Diogu, great to see him again. Nigeria’s national flag Green, White & Green.. looks like home to me, pass it on.
Tunisia – group huddle: “eye-to-eye.”
Tunisia wins it the crowd is silent, sneakers squeaking was just about all you could here. – It’s just another day at the gym. After a missed top of the key three Nigeria claimed the rebound, then as they brought the ball across mid-court, suddenly the crowd came to life.
With a roar that only a laser-focused feeling of performing for family and country could inspire, Nigeria got the ball down low off a baseline bounce-pass feed. To their honor, the Tunisian’s snapped-to & in unison recovered. The energy on the point blank look was sucked right out of the hardwood itself. Short, shrinking, on the O-Reb & off again. D-Reb, “hurrah” exclaimed the fans seated from halfway-up- to-the-wall. As heat rises, so did a post players right ✋.
I press pause, get out of my seat off the Russian River kitchen table and walk straight for the living room, looking over at my father who stroking his nestled beard and say one word… “Dad.” Walking away without thinking, I hear fighting behind me and a fence being rattled. @festus he was watching the UFC. He’s a man of all sports.
HOME-TEAM: “Buckle Up,” reving my inner engine, I’m locked in “Let’s Ride.” One plain thought, “Unbiased,” then I have a laugh as my father’s voice creeps into my head, “I hate the word un.”
Box 1 I believe. Two synchronized consecutive dive cuts and a bucket for the Nigerians. Tunisia is hanging around the perimeter scanning the screen drive game with the 5, excellent spacing. No good, one pass baseline & long on the shot. I only saw his back, some body control, head stayed on the box 🇳🇬
Then a glimpse of the Nigeria coach with his hands on his head. Catch & shoot three long and strong by Diogu. A lovely screen and roll gets sent back as Ike patrols the paint. Diogu tries backing up into his defender anround the rim to create space to go straight back to the hoop, shoots it with the TUN draped over his head & neck, short, “lucky he didn’t get over-the-back.
Tunisia has such grace. FT’s (TUN) Coach scans the court, there’s a phantom whistle. Hand hangs high, just off. The triple threat on full display after a solid screen to go left. Nigeria to the rack and more FT’s. Four up. Dribble ✋-off .. leaning. Diogu rhythm 3 POW.
Guard takes it behind the rim for TUN. The country getting all the open looks they want. Nigeria trying to shove it in the basket three times in one possession, commits an offensive foul the ref strickly called. Hesi’ right, bounce passing, FT’s, short. Crowd might have been too quiet, you’ve really gotta rally behind the poor FT shooters.
Diogu doing what he does best, bang down low for two points. FT’s for Tuni made down one now. Euro-step left to right floater, good. Kick corner 3 just left. Fast break and exasperation. Diogu warding off with the left forearm, will always draw a whistle.
One dribble pull-up 3 no good, great screen set , but more rhythm into the shot was necessary. Cross-over, that’s right SPLASH Nigerian guard Nwamu. “Highlight that,” I think. They did, video team in sync, Love this Game. The guard pointed to his head three times in fact, magnificent.
TUN coach protesting from his bellows. End of quarter one, number 1 is down, stepped on a foot, and was caught in the face. #BasketballWithoutBorders 6 point game, Nigeria leads 14-8. Fans running lines in spirited competition.
Led him too far on the screen roll, ball goes out of bounds. Three second violation, the Center passed up an open three. “He has to take it” the announcer pronounces pleading. Pat on the top-of-head by coach. Up top goes left, screen, O-Reb, kick-out angle-three POW. Nigeria forces a timeout.
TUN coach points around and states “Do it with your head,” it was forcefully expressed. NGR coach “Let’s go,” from one knee and very low key. Overhand traditional pass spot up angle-3. Fool me twice shame on me a Nigerian cross-over to the left only pops off the backboard. Short Tuni.
Fingernails-on-a-chalkboard, a post turnaround goes way off. 18-11 Quarter 2; 7:05 remaining. Timeout. “Trust me guys.” Nigeria coach said, “Let’s go inside so we can stop them, attack the basket.” He finished strong.
Around-the-world three for Tunisia, from the right angle he knocked it down. Picture-esque form, with the index and middle finger following straight down, an extravagant tea pot off-hand. Nigeria hits the deck, Tuni player stumbles over, Nigerian player slips and slides out of bounds.
A soccer-hooligan chant for their country (Tunisia). Inside out top-of-key-3. TUN comes up with a trap and steal in the corner. It led to a corner three, which wound up short. The O-Reb ensued, then worked it around again and missed low. Diogu rolling to the rim delivers a push-shot, he just lofted it, beautiful.
Tunisia subs in M. Hadidane after a bit of comradarie music plays. Drive, kick, swing, take, foul. The shot goes in, but it didn’t count. An errant pass into the second row. Diogu, baseline turn-away-fade, all net. Tuni corner three misses the rim entirely, off left. Diogu two-dribble back-down bully-ball, FT’s.
Nails-on-a-chalkboard. 22-15 3:20 left in the half. Splish, splash the FT’s shot with great form had perfect arc, like a rain-drop pushed by a gentle summer breeze. Touch pass over for a left corner three and we have presipitation (Tuni).
Give-and-go, hook shot short by TUN. Bobby Knight Hoosiers basketball, seven passes, to the baseline, shot goes long, but the O-Reb was put up and in. Played over the top, Tuni steal of Diogu. Kicked to the left-corner goes again. Picture of the game goes to that shot, you can put it on a basketball trading card.
Nigeria coach furious. Tunisia coach gives keys that were delivered down-to-earth, small gym… The stuff movies are made of. “The crowd is just pushing them to an incredible performance,” the announcer cried and you could feel it in your chest. In a heartbeat, “Let’s Ride.” Music blasts out, hands are clapping, “Go on,” from the crowd. Baseline left-handed-magic a spin layed right in. Nigeria short-rims a step-back three, “What a comeback.”
Halftime: 25-24 Tunisia
Stats for Nigeria:
7/18- 2-pointers for 39%, 2/11- 3- pointers for 18%, 4/4- FT’s for 100%, 4/13-17 RebsO/D, 3 Assists, 1 Block, 7 Turnovers, 3 Steals, 5 Fouls.
Stats for Tunisia:
6/12- 2-pointers for 50%, 3/17- 3-pointers for 18%, 4/6 FT’s for 67%, 4/14- 18 RebsO/D, 4 Assists, 2 Blocks, 8 Turnovers, 2 Steals, 6 Fouls.
Start of the second half:
Ball-fake & 🔥, long Tunisia. I. Iroegbu Nigeria it’s my gym arm-swing-dancing into-through-and-after the 💧three. Brand-New-Ballgame, Tunisia ties it up. Twenty-four second violation. Pin up curls & right around to the cup for Tunisian guard. Nigeria releases too high on a running righty layup. Solid screen two-dribble right three, straight into the Tuni forward. Diogu gets away with a travel.
Back-door bounce-pass thing-of-beauty And-1. “Raise-The-Roof,” M. Hadidane, PA and crowd in-sync joyous atmosphere. Nigeria coach, “where’s the ball,” calls for “Trap.” Ike Diogu graphic shows him with 11 points & 8 rebounds. FT dinks around and in. N. Nwamu three hushes the crowd for only a moment. Tunisian throws it ahead of himself, runs to catch up and lays it in.
Off-Ball whistle turns out to be 3rd personal foul on Diogu. “Gotta get up on the three,” I think aloud, no TUN missed and NGR possession. High-screen-and-roll into a packed lane by Nwamu comes up short. Extra-effort TUN retains and maintains with a sweeping/drag And-1-reverse-layup. FT good.
Tunisia up nine with 4:48, 39-30 is the count. Jump-stop and a whistle, Nigeria has an out-of-bounds-play. Diogu eventually gets it and is swarmed, to his credit, just missing right. Cross-Over cross-court-kick, swing corner three is good for TUN. NGR hurriedly misses and half-court-basketball wins again, with a P&R cross-over left to the tin.
Diogu through a double team, an all-muscle And-1. “They’ve made their run, we’ve gotta make our own runs,” says the Nigeria coach during a Time-Out. Tunisia coach holding his clipboard states”break-up, we can make a three-point-play.” FT missed left and a cheer from the stands.
Wide-open swing-ball angle-3 splash, by Tunisia. A. Akindele Nigeria says this is my key, pulls the O-Reb puts it back up And-1 and knocked down the FT. 35-47 2:07 Quarter 3, Nigeria trails. High-screen-and-roll, love the patience of the screener. Tuni decides to pull after nothing opens up from the elbow POW. NGR 2/2 on FT’s, 36-49 1:32 Q3.
Moving screen on Tunisian pick setter. Drop-Step by Nigerian was a tough shot, went short, O-Reb & FT’s for A. Yahaya, great 💓. Missed both. #7 El Mabrouk has taken over, catch-and-shoot-3 felt good, looked good, was indeed good. Nigeria surges late runner off target, O-Reb tip-in goes. End of 3rd Quarter Tunisia 52 Nigeria 40.
Stats for Nigeria:
2-pointers 11/26 for 42%, 3-pointers 4/14 for 29%, FT’s 6/10 for 60%
Stats for Tunisia:
2-pointers 14/20 for 70%, 3-pointers 6/23 for 26%, FT’s 6/8 for 75%
4th Quarter, Ride-and-Try. TUN group huddle, everyone following one finger seeing eye-to-eye. Help defense perfectly timed. Drive-and-Kick and O-Reb foul on Hadidane. Rhythm half-step-3 no good. Diogu spot up 3 goes long, O-Reb and took it to the tin. FT’s Iroegbu.
Double wing dingers left pin-up left covered well, right and the three shot without hesitation was good for Tunisia. Nigeria step-back answer-back went down. Line it up F. Lwhiani (TUN), top-of-key-3 steeeryke. NGR strong with the counter-strike. Tuni picking their spots. Two-dribble pull-up by M. Ghyaza again from the elbow this time, all net.
Number 5 TUN gets kicked in the Netherlands accidentally ball-dont-lie the post spin rims out. Dribble-Drive-Handoff to Diogu in a tight spot draws FT’s, split. 60-45 Tunisia with 6:47 til trophy. B. Mbamalu (NGR) gets hit in the side of the head with an elbow, offensive foul. Tunisia coach questions, “what happened?”
Diogu riding-solo Drop-Step gathers and buckets. Hadidane (TUN) off a feed stripes it. Iroegbu (NGR) gets a quick layup. Pace picks up and Tuni is tough-to-the-task showcasing a P&R dive, cross, underhanded-flip-in And-1. FT off the mark. Cross-Over top-of-key-3 by Iroegbu (NGR) was over everybody. Delivering a big shot-in-the-arm to bring it to within a dozen and only five minutes left.
N. Knioua (TUN) Step-Back-3, was butter. Mbamalu catch-and-shoot-3 from the corner was on the 💰. Hadidane lock & load long on the 3 and Nigeria gets fouled on the rebound push. 55-67 4:10 sideline-out-of-bounds.
Diogu with a working-man’s effort O-Reb & put-back. Diogu back-to-back rejections, finds a leak and tosses it ahead for a slam by I. Iroegbu. Nigeria is riding high now and the run gets stopped by a Time-Out. Tunisia’s coach Mario Palmer shouts, “stop number six.”
High-screen-and-pop was driven to Diogu, who met him at the top and was called for his 4th foul. FT’s M. Ghyaza (TUN) SPLIT, but the O-Reb with 3:04 was huge. A baseline Drive-and-Kick, the 3 was long. Twenty-four second violation. 59-68 with 2:39 to go.
Drive-and-Dish stolen and the full-court-trap was broke. A. Akingbala rocker-step miss (NGR) led to a counter drive & dish dunk by O. Ajamune, one of the plays of the night. Tuni O. Abadu screened top-of-key-3, “A killer blow perhaps to the Nigerians,” the announcer says as he comments towards the home-crowd.
Nigeria calls time, and the coach pumps his fist putting a spark in his players, whose voice #6 Ike Diogu is going back out to the FT line. First.. splish, then.. splash. Eight point game 1:05 in the tank. Defense is the key word here.
Ball Game, M. El Mabrouk one-dribble pull-up three nets and it’s game over. Nigeria counters fair dues to them, but Z. Chennoufi (TUN) finishes them off in style with an angle-3.
Tunisia are the FIBA AfroBasket Tournament Champions. Players on the floor exuberant all the same, give each other family firm hugs and that’s the story.
Tip of the hat and congratulations to Tunisia, who playing in front of their families fought hard, battled well, played a beautiful brand of team basketball and above all else.. won.
“Focus.” Mario Palmer says as he embraced one of his players.
Finals Final Score: Tunisia 77 to 65 for Nigeria.
Final Stats for Tunisia:
2-pointers 17/28 for 61%, 3-pointers 12/32 for 39%, FT’s 7/11 for 64%, RebO/D 8/22 Tot 30, Assists 17, Blocks 3, Turnovers 11, Steals 4, Fouls 19
Final Stats for Nigeria:
2-pointers 18/34 for 53%, 3-pointers 6/20 for 30%, FT’s 11/16 for 69%, RebO/D 7/22 Tot 29, Assists 6, Blocks 2, Turnovers 12, Steals 4, Fouls 18
Chennoufi 19 points, Romdhale 9 rebounds, Mabrouk 6 assists, Hadidane 2 blocks, Mabrouk 2 steals
Other top scorers Knioua 16, Mabrouk 12.
Diogu 20 points, Diogu 10 rebounds, Iroegbu 2 assists, Ochefu 1 block, Akindele 2 steals.
Other top scorers: Iroegbu 17, Mbamalu 11.
Ride on for riding, be sure to take a look at the screenshots taken after the game, consisting of player awards, medals and trophy presentation.