By Victor Okoye
Emmanuel Odah, the coach of FCT Hardrockers basketball club, has described the ongoing Mark ‘D’ Ball Men’s Basketball Championship as “a very tough competition”.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Phase 1 Group 2 round of games in the three-month long competition began on Sunday and will end on Saturday.
“This championship is very challenging and competitive, and there are no easy wins,” Odah told NAN on the sidelines of the championship after his team recorded their first win.
They had rallied back from a set down to spank Warri-based basketball clubside CAMAC 100-79.
John Idoga was the standout player for the FCT Hardrockers with 26 points, including 11 rebounds, three assists and four turnovers.
He combined well with fellow teammate Favour Adama who himself had 24 points, including five rebounds, one assist and four turnovers.
“Mark ‘D’ Ball basketball is indeed a very tough championship. In this competition, there are no favourites or minnows as every team is a potential champion.
“Even from the ones (similar competitions) organised in Otukpo, you cannot predict who is going to win the championship,” Odah added while expressing joy at his team’s hard-fought victory.
NAN reports that they had lost 69-72 to Suleja Bulldogs in their first game on Sunday.
The coach said the competition was tough because of the variety of contest.
“There is a mix-up everywhere, everybody is excited, everyone is happy with the competition and ready to play.
“It’s indeed a great atmosphere and when you have a great atmosphere, you give your best. So, that is what we have been experiencing right here,” Odah said.
The coach who had blamed his team’s first game loss to poor officiating noted that his team had a better performance then, compared to the second game they won.
“Ironically, our first game was better than that of today. If you check the statistics, we had lesser turnovers yesterday (Sunday) than we had today (Monday).
“My concern about basketball most of the time is this ‘human drama’ and I am so concerned about the turnovers because they are like failures.
“Though we won, but I have a lot more to talk about today (Monday) than I had yesterday (Sunday).
“Yesterday (Sunday) I was a little bit unhappy and like I said, I don’t blame it on referees but I didn’t like the last two minutes of their officiating which wasn’t too good, precisely speaking.
“Today we had a fairer and better match. I think we came out with our A-game today,” he said.
Odah noted that the key to his team’s victory was in the defensive area, adding that they had to go back to the drawing board to correct their few defensive errors.
“The trick is defence. It’s only defence that makes the difference in basketball.
“Everybody can score. Anybody can throw the ball and it will go into the net, but your ability to score and also stop your opponent from scoring is what makes the difference.
“Yesterday, our opponents scored with 10 three-pointers against us, which was 30 points. For our opponents to get that much points from the three-point line was really crazy!
“So, today we worked on defence. We have a special kind of defence we play, which we call ‘the arrow’. We worked on it today and it helped us out,”he said.
FCT Hardrockers next take on a strong Civil Defenders side on Tuesday who themselves will be looking for redemption after failing to secure their second win on Monday (today).
They lost 71-77 to Suleja Bulldogs at the end of a pulsating encounter.
Kareem Ademola was the Most Valuable Player (MVP) for the Bulldogs after putting up a man-of-the-match performance that saw him hit 21 points.
These include seven rebounds, two assists and four turnovers, which helped to create an upset against the much-fancied NSCDC team.
In other results of matches also played on Monday, Plateau Peaks lost their second consecutive game after losing 62-71 to Kwara Falcons.
Nigeria Customs outdunked Niger Potters 98-58 for their second consecutive win.
The result meant that Nigeria Customs (+61), Kwara Falcons (+19) and Suleja Bulldogs (+9) with two wins from two games played so far lead the Group 2 table.
They have four points each, and are placed first, second and third respectively.
FCT Hardrockers (+18) and Civil Defenders (-4), are fourth and fifth respectively with three points each having won one game and lost one.
Plateau Peaks (-11), CAMAC (-42) and Niger Potters (-50), with two points each after recording no wins so far in the competition, are sixth, seventh and eighth respectively.
Five teams will qualify from the eight-team group for the Round of 16.
They will join the likes of Mo’ Heat, Gombe Bulls, Hot Coal Ballers, Nile University Spartans and APA Flames who have already qualified from Phase 1 Group 1.
Phase 1 Group 2 standings after two matches
S/N TEAM P W L GF GA PTS GD
1. Nigeria Customs 2 2 0 185 124 4 +61
2. Kwara Falcons 2 2 0 148 129 3 +19
3. Suleja Bulldogs 2 2 0 149 140 4 +9
4. FCT Hardrockers 2 1 1 169 151 3 +18
5. Civil Defenders 2 1 1 138 142 3 -4
6. Plateau Peaks 2 0 2 127 138 2 -11
7. CAMAC 2 0 2 145 187 2 -42
8. Niger Potters 2 0 2 125 175 2 -50