An experienced Rivers Hoopers side left it late to defeat Delta Force 74-81 points in overtime on Saturday in Asaba.
Ikechukwu Benjamin scored 16 points, 9 rebounds and 3 steals while Solomon Ajegbeyi added 14 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists.
Prior to the final round of regular season games which tipped off on Saturday, Hoopers had clinched the Conference 6 playoffs after amassing a total of 39 points from 18-3.
Irrespective of the outcomes from the 6 games remaining in the regular season, the Atlantic Conference leaders have no cause to worry having booked their place in this season’s Conference playoffs.
TheKingsMen wasted no time to stamp their authority on the home court of the Asaba side.
They led the first quarter with an 8-1 run against Delta Force who were sluggish on the ball like they had little or no interest in the game.
This however continued in the second quarter as they were limited to 19 points at the end of the second quarter (19-43).
Ajegbeyi who had experienced quiet games lately got his groove back and at the end of the first half, made 10 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists.
While Ikechukwu continued his impressive form scoring 8 of his 10 free throws and 5 of 8 proved decisive in overtime.
Somtochuwkwu Managor who fell a point short of double figures (9 points) making 4 rebounds, stole the show in overtime converting 7/ 12 of his free throws.
Little did the visitors know that Delta Force had a lot off their sleeves in the third quarter. They came out with an aggressive defense, making Hoopers struggle to get series of baskets
while forcing them to commit 25 turnovers and limiting them to 12 points.
Three Delta Force players led the way for the host. Kevin Ikhalo made a game high 19 points and 6 rebounds, Ibrahim Oyebamiji who had a brilliant game in Port Harcourt two days ago, scored 18 points and 4 rebounds while Emmanuel Akhimen had a double-double scoring 13 points and 12 rebounds to go with it.
The Asaba based side rained threes on Hoopers in the fourth quarter and had no answers to questions thrown at them. A total of 10 threes were made by the host stretching the game to overtime 68-68.
The experience of TheKingsMen came in handy in overtime limiting Delta Force to just 6 points while Hoopers were able to break down their momentum in front of a fierce home crowd.
Rivers Hoopers coach Ogoh Odaudu believes experience earned his team the victory over a determined Delta Force side.
“Delta Force came back and they were playing at home. You don’t expect that we will come and just roll over them and beat them by 40 points on their home court.
“They are also battling relegation so one would not expect that we roll over them. They wanted the game badly and they almost got it. In the end, experience took the day,” Odaudu explained.
Delta Force coach, Brodrick Peter is a proud coach despite his boys failing to upset Hoopers after stretching the game to overtime.
“In the first two quarters they showed little immaturity and we had to fight from behind although I am still proud of them, they did well.”
“They didn’t believe in themselves and that’s what really hit them. If they had believed in themselves from the beginning, we would have taken the game. That’s where experience comes in to separate the kids from the men. The men carried the day today,” said Peter.
Hoopers guard Benjamin Ikechukwu who has been in fine form reiterated that experience was the factor behind their victory over Delta Force.
“I think we lost our momentum and we gave Delta Force to play basketball. They also had to play well because they were playing in front of their fans on home court.
“Experience I guess gave us the victory because we were calm and we knew we were a better side. To have led them by 20 points, we knew we could carry the day just had that we lost ourselves in between the game”
Rivers Hoopers extended their unbeaten run to five games and will return to Port Harcourt to play Police Baton on Thursday before hosting Nigeria Customs on Saturday. The game against Customs next week will be Hoopers last game on home court this season.