Air Warriors Babes shrugged off their underdog tag to stun Nigeria Customs 80-56 to claim top spot in the second phase of the 2019 Zenith Bank Women’s Basketball at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on Thursday.
Customs had entered into the final day of the second phase of the league at the Abuja zone as clear favourites, having led the first phase and also claiming maximum points in the second.
Coach Abdulrahman Mohammed of Nigeria Customs had boasted that his experienced team was superior to the relatively unknown Air Warriors and that his players would make a light work of their opponents.
However, his opposite number, Samson Sotuminu, said he had a plan going into the crucial tie and if his players stuck to the plan, they would emerge victorious.
And it seemed Sotuminu’s players played to instruction from the get go, as they dominated the game throughout with solid defence and fantastic recovery rate.
Captain Kasham Emanuel, Murjanati Musa and sharp-shooter Chinwe Okah were practically unplayable and ruthless in both defence and attack.
Okah finished as top performer with 25 points 17 rebounds and two assists, while Musa garnered 16 points, 13 rebounds and 1 assist.
Abimbola Omodeji’s highest 12 points for Customs summed up the performance of the hitherto high-flying side, who boast of experienced and well-travelled players.
Air Warriors finished the second phase with maximum 14 points from seven games, while Customs were runners-up with 13 points from seven games.
Sotuminu explained after the game that his defence made the difference against a team tagged the favourites to top the table.
“I watched their games and realised that if we tidied our defence we would have a chance against them. I told my girls that they were younger and more energetic, so they should use it to their advantage.
“Yes, they are more experienced and have stars, but we were more determined and more energetic. My girls were younger, so they played as if they had nothing to lose,” he said.
Air Warriors will now go into the third phase of the league with their heads held high and a possibility of making the National Conference stage of the league for the very first time.