NIGERIA : African Champions First Bank back home

Newly crowned African female clubs champions First Bank of Nigeria returned to Lagos by midday on Monday after their Sunday defeat of ABC of Cote d’Ivoire to emerge the 2009 continental champions. The Nigerian league champions defeated the Ivorian ladies 64-55 in the final match played in Cotonou, Republic of Benin on Sunday.

First Bank coach Aderemi Adewunmi to FIBA.COM they were happy that they did not let down those who believed in them.

“We are just arriving back in Lagos; we thank God for everything. The hard work paid off and we are so happy we didn’t disappoint those believed in us and supported us all through,” Adewunmi said as the team bus drove into the country from the border with Benin.

The triumph means the Elephant Girls, as they are nicknamed, have won the African clubs trophy for the second time. They first won the cup in 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique – the same year the Nigerian national female team won the African Nations Cup for the first time as well. The victory of the Elephant Girls becomes even more striking given the fact that they arrived in Cotonou on wild card entry. They could not qualify from the FIBA Africa Zone 3 play off held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire one week before the African event began in Cotonou. The victory also marks quite a lot of difference from the male and female national teams that failed to go beyond the quarter finals of the 2009 African cups.

First Bank did not drop a game all through the competition in Benin. In the final game, they won the three first three quarters by 15-13, 15-9 and 19-17 while ABC took the last by 16-15. Brisa Silva of First Bank hit 17 points; Funmilayo Ojelabi 13 and Mfon Udoka 11 while Adeola Olanrewaju grabbed 13 rebounds.

Defending champions of the African club championship Desportivo of Mozambique defeated Interclube of Angola 57-50 for the bronze medal. Desportivo won the cup back-to-back in 2007 and 2008. The fair-play trophy went to Energie Basketball Club of Benin Republic. First Bank guard, Danielle Green left Benin as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the15th Africa Champions Club for Women. Green and Rahidat Sadiq were named in the competition Top-5 players list. First Bank will represent Africa at the FIBA World Club Championship next year.

By Pius Ayinor
FIBA Africa