NIGERIA : First Bank drops game, retain Zenith cup

Nigerian women champions First Bank Basketball Club late Sunday retained the Zenith Bank League – a title they have won back-to-back since the competition took the first jump ball five years ago. But unlike the past seasons where they won all 27 matches including the final match of the league, they were beaten on the final day of the 2009 season by new comers First Deepwater Club. The match ended 80-72 at the Sports Hall of the National Stadium, Lagos. The loss, however, did not change the top position as the Bankers had won their first two meets in Kaduna and Asaba this year when the first and second phases of the league was played.

Deepwater scored the first point, won the first quarter 24-13 and led all through the match. Ijeoma Uchendu of Deepwater who was cut from the Madagascar 2009 team was the highest scorer with 20 points while her team mate Magdalene Ukato hit 19 points. The Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the competition Funmi Ojelabi of First Bank shot 16 points with 4 assists.

Both teams got the two tickets to the 2009 African Club championship with the first stage qualifiers starting this week in Cote d’Ivoire. First Bank got the sum of N750, 000 for their efforts while Deepwater got N500, 000. Dolphins left the National Stadium in Lagos as the third best team of the competition. The Dolphins were followed by Sunshine Angels of Akure. Plateau Rocks of Jos were named winners of the Fair Play award and were rewarded with the sum of N100, 000.

The Managing Director of Zenith Bank was represented at the closing events by the AGM/Head Corporate Communications Mr. Timeyin Ejoor who told the players that the bank will continue to stand by them.

“We are always happy to see you perform like this. Our goal is to ensure that young girls like you make the best out of life especially in your youthful days. When we look around this place and from what has taken place at the different stages we know it is Zenith Bank money well spent,” Ejoor said.

The Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) President Mr. Tijjani Umar appealed to Zenith Bank and other partners of the Federation to identify fully with them.

“We appreciate your support but we would like all of you on the table (sponsors and friends of basketball) to ride fully on board with us. That is the only way we can get perfection,” Umar said.

The Managing Director of Multichoice Nigeria Mr. Joseph Hunda whose company sponsors the men’s Dstv League was the Special Guest of Honour. The Lagos Liaisons Officer of the Sports Ministry Mrs Tayo Oreweme represented the Sports Minister.
*First Bank –Champions – (N750, 000, Trophy and continental ticket)
*Deepwater – Runners-up (N500, 000, and continental ticket)
*Dolphins – Third – (N350, 000)
*Fair Play Trophy – Plateau Rocks (N100, 000)
*NBBF Award – Zenith Bank
*MVP – Funmilayo Ojelabi (First Bank) – N15, 000 and trophy
*Highest Rebounder – Esther Igben (Delta Force) – N15, 000 and trophy
*Best Three-pointer – Ogor Bolum (Delta Force) – N15, 000 and trophy
*Highest Scorer – Blessing Emmanuel (AHIP) – N15, 000 and trophy

-By Pius Ayinor, FIBA Africa