‘The game belongs to First Bank.’ That was the song on the lips of players and officials of the Lagos team, which at the weekend defeated First Deepwater to retain the Zenith Bank Women Basketball League. It was a carnival atmosphere at the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium, Lagos, where First Bank First Deepwater Basketball Club 84 to 53 to retain their title.
The exciting game brought out the best in Magdalene Ukator, Nkechi Akashili, Chioma Ugboaja and their team mates as they took in everything First Deepwater, led by the irrepressible Kasham Emmanuel, had to offer before going for the kill.
Although the match started on a very intense note, it did not take much time before First Bank stamped authority to completely dominate their opponents.
First Deepwater were able to win the third quarter 24 to 20 in an attempt to stage a comeback after trailing 45 to 22 at half time of the final match. But their efforts did not yield much as First Bank held on to win the game.
Speaking after the game, First Deepwater Chairman, Babatunde Babalola commended his girls for coming second in the league, saying that the feat came as a surprise to the club management.
“First Deepwater coming second in the league is a good achievement even when there was not too much money on the team this year.
“In the past we spent N20 million on this team annually, but this year we only spent N3 million. The girls deserve the best. Our plan is to get more good players to beef up the team ahead of the continental engagements because most of our good players have joined other teams. Deepwater will be among the top four in the continental championship,” he said.
Among the winners were First Bank’s Magdalene Ukator, who was voted the Most Valuable Player, IGP Queens, who defeated highly rated Dolphins of Lagos in the third place match, earned N1 million, while First Deepwater received N1.2 million for taking the second place.
First Deepwater’s coach, Shola was voted the best coach of the championship.
Speaking after the awards, the Group Managing Director of Zenith Bank, Peter Amangbo showered praises on the players and officials, saying their performance showed that the country’s basketball was on the rise.
Amangbo, who watched the final of the competition, said he was elated with the sportsmanship spirit exhibited by the competitors.
The Zenith Bank boss noted that the players displayed so much guts and determination to excel all through the event, which held between April 10 and August 29.
He said: “I commend all the players and officials because everybody is a winner. I want to assure all that Zenith Bank will continue to support sports and basketball in particular.
“Over the years, we are proud that many of the players who feature in this competition represent the country in international competitions.
“We are committed to the development of sports as one of our social responsibilities and so this event will get bigger and better every year.”
The former President of the Nigeria Basketball Federation, Tijani Umar, was at the event as well as the FIBA Africa President, Col. Sam Ahmedu.