Rivers Hoopers were out-rebounded and outshot from three point range losing to Nigeria Customs 60-49 at the Indoor Sports Hall, National Stadium Lagos on Thursday.
Despite falling to Customs, former Customs power forward, Solomon Ajegbeyi scored 10 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists delivering consecutive baskets in the first but not enough to salvage the loss to Customs.
Ikechukwu Benjamin’s jumper before the buzzer ended the first quarter (15-19). The Port Harcourt side produced a brilliant first half performance looking ready to go for the kill in the second half but were brilliantly guarded by the Customs defense in the third quarter.
Customs guard, Okiki Afuwapa Michael who was their best player finished with a game high 25 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.
Okiki’s shooting pushed Customs into the lead and in over 4 minutes of play, Hoopers couldn’t score leading the host to their biggest score run (9-0) in 6:22. The two time champions were left with a series of missed shots and turnovers.
The KingsMen got a huge performance off the bench from former Mentors guard, Friday Haruna who tried to outpace Okiki but was let down by the team’s turnovers (23), missed buckets and a great defence from the host.
Hoopers trailed in the final quarter 52-46 for over five minutes and once again fell short of the baskets (0/10) hitting just 7 of their shots with less than 2 minutes remaining (1:34) in the last quarter.
The loss to Nigeria Customs is the 6th out of the 7 games played between the two sides in two seasons which is also a repeat of last season’s league opener where the former champions also lost in Lagos to Customs.
Speaking to the media after the game, Ogoh Odaudu, Rivers Hoopers coach said they had no solution for Michael Okiki who had a brilliant game against his team.
“There was no solution for him today I completely agree with you. It wasn’t Rivers Hoopers V Customs but Rivers Hopers V Michael Okiki. He practically took over the game for a player who is playing his second season. He played well like a veteran today i will say kudos to him,” said Odaudu.
The former Nigeria international pointed out where his team got it wrong.
“We broke down in the third quarter but thank God it happened in our first game. It’s a league and we still have 27 more games to go. All we will do now is to go back to the drawing board and work on it.” Odaudu said.
On his part, Customs coach Scott Nnaji disclosed his words of motivation during half time.
“We are just starting the season and I am just working with the new players. After our loss to Kwara Falcons last week, we did some work out and I made sure we cooperated with each other on our attitude towards the game. At half time, I tried to motivate them telling them it’s not over yet and that they should stay positive. And I am happy they played like that and it was good.” Nnaji explained
Hoopers will next play Police Baton on Saturday also in Lagos