By Victor Okoye
Abuja, June 18, 2022 (NAN) Mo’ Heat Basketball Club of Abuja will be up against Nigeria Customs for the second time within the space of three days to determine who wins the 2022 Mark ‘D’ Ball Men’s basketball championship title.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recall that both sides had earlier met on Friday in the final game of the ‘Elite eight’ which saw the teams slugging it out in a battle of superiority in Group A.
Both teams, having won their two consecutive games in the group and already secured semi-final tickets as the top two teams in the group, had nothing but pride at stake to fight for.
The encounter between Mo’ Heat and Premier League giants Nigeria Customs, which was dubbed ‘the final before the final’, saw Mo’ Heat edging it 72-67 at the end of a pulsating encounter.
The result meant Mo’ Heat who finished as winners of Group A after amassing the six maximum points, clashed with Kano Pillars, the runners up in Group B in the semi-finals.
While Gombe Bulls, the winners of Group B slugged it out with Nigeria Customs, the runners up in Group A on Saturday.
The game between Mo’ Heat and Kano Pillars was quite an intense and nervy encounter as expected, as the former Nigeria Premier League champions looked to impose their dominance early in the game.
The Sai Maisugida clubside have had their fair share of disappointments in the championship after losing their first two matches before narrowly squeezing through into the semi-finals.
This was after they defeated Kwara Falcons 77-61 in their final group game to finish with four points and second in the group by virtue of a superior head-to-head and goal difference.
They controlled the game early and took an eight-point lead in the first five minutes of the first quarter for a 17-9 scoreline.
However they were up against Mo’ Heat, an Abuja-based club side, who were yet to lose a single game in the championship having gone a total of 19 games unbeaten since the start of the tournament on Feb. 6.
The Mo’ Heat side showed that they were not about to relinquish their unbeaten run and their quest for the title in the club’s first stinct at the championship as they bounced back in the last five minutes to take it 20-18 at the end of the first quarter.
It was a family affair in the first five minutes of the second quarter as scores was leveled at 25-25 but it was the Sai Maisugida boys who showed more resilience and edged it at 38-36 at the end of the quarter.
It was a similar situation in the first five minutes of the third quarter as Mo’ Heat bounced back to level scores at 47-47 but a stubborn Kano Pillars side came back strong to take it 60-55 at the end of the quarter.
The fourth and decisive quarter however saw a much more determined Mo’ Heat side score 10 points in the first five minutes to take a 66-65 lead and never looked back as they held on for a 74-70 win.
Johnson Anaye and Victor Koko were the stand-out performers for Mo’ Heat as they both scored a combined total of 26 points and 14 rebounds with the ever reliable, tall centre Christopher Ewaoche, amassing a total of eight points, including five rebounds and three blocked shots.
Kano Pillars’ Chinedu Chimbou scored the highest point of the game (16), including eight rebounds, two assists and two steals, alongside Eli Abraham who scored 14 points, including two rebounds and five assists.
The result meant that Mo’ Heat maintained an unbeaten 20-game winning run and advanced to the final where they will contend with bitter rivals, Nigeria Customs once again; after they defeated Gombe Bulls 67-62 in the other semi-final encounter on Saturday.
Would it be a case of lighting striking twice as Mo’ Heat look to beat their opponents once again, to finish the tournament unbeaten and win a maiden championship title or will Nigeria Customs avenge their loss with a sweet reward and the prize of the title at stake?
All these questions and more will be answered when both teams lock horns at the Multipurpose Indoor Sports Hall of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Package B, Abuja on Sunday. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)