Tunisia: Champions of Africa

Host nation Tunisia have won the 2017 Afrobasket, defeating holders Nigeria in the final 65-77 Saturday night in Tunis.

The first 15 minutes of the game was all Nigeria, despite the hosts being buoyed by a passionate home crowd Nigeria were able to move the ball well and opened a 6 point lead at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter started like a continuation of the first as Nigeria built on and extended their lead into double digits which caused a timeout from the rightly furious Tunisia coach.

After the timeout, the game was never the same. Tunisia calmed down and started to make three-pointers that had previously alluded them and Nigeria was unable to react, their zonal defence leaving Tunisian scorers wide open time after time. Chennoufi took the game by the scruff of the neck for the home side as he rained threes on the Nigerians, and despite the best efforts of Ike Diogu, who would finish with 20 points and 10 rebounds the hosts took a one-point advantage into halftime.

Tunisia went from strength to strength in the second half going on a 19-3 run to go from 9 points down to 9 points ahead and the game would never be in doubt from that point. Nigeria worked incredibly hard and looked a lot better for having Iroegbu back on the floor after an eye injury kept him out for a big portion of the first half. Iroegbu, Diogu and Nwamu battled but with minimal help from the rest of the Nigerian players with little help coming from the bench. Tunisia’s El Mabrouk and Mohammed Hadidane started making any shot they decided to take before the bespectacled Lahiani, who averaged just 9 minutes a game and didn’t feature at all in the first half, came on and continued the scoring spree. 

Nigeria kept fighting to close the gap, but Tunisia was too good, able to score however they wanted, whenever they wanted. With five minutes in the tie Nigeria had hope, but a dagger three-pointer from Abada, who had hardly been seen since the opening minutes killed the game.

Abada’s three-pointer had the fans screaming in delight and even his teammates were embracing knowing that it would take a miracle for them to lose the game. The miracle for Nigeria never came and as the buzzer sounded the hosts erupted in delight as they were rightfully crowned Champions of Africa.

Ike Diogu of Nigeria rightly won the tournament MVP after averaging 22.0 points per game and 8.7 rebounds.

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Tunisia and Nigeria played their hearts out and represented the sport we hold dearly incredibly well. The 2017 Afrobasket final was a fantastic advertisement for our sport, and in an African context takes a small step to break the vice-like grip the Angolan national team has had on the competition. Afrobasket now takes a 4-year break before Tunisia get a chance to defend their championship in 2021, before that they’ll be hoping to make a big impact in the 2019 world cup.

Embed from Getty Images

Afrobasket now takes a 4-year break before Tunisia get a chance to defend their championship in 2021, before that they’ll be hoping to make a big impact in the 2019 world cup. Until then, Tunisia’s players, coaches and fans will savour their well-earned championship that will live long in the memory.

 

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