Rivers Hoopers handed over their leadership on the Atlantic Conference log to Kwara Falcons following a 71-69 points loss to Hoops & Read on Thursday at the Indoor Sports Hall, National Stadium, Surulere.
Buchi Nwaiwu led other three Hoopers players scoring 15 points and 9 rebounds, Ronald Alalibo made 13 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals, Somtochukwu Managor added 13 points, 3 rebounds and 1 block while Solomon Ajegbeyi contributed 12 points and 7 rebounds.
With a 3-0 record against the Lagos based side, the KingsMen knew what to expect from a team who had beaten two of the top rated teams in the Atlantic Conference, Kwara Falcons and Nigeria Customs.
Hoops & Read dominated for huge part of the game while Hoopers were only able to score more points than their opponents 16-22 in the last quarter but it was insufficient to salvage the damage already done in the first half of the game.
A very aggressive Hoops & Read team were led by David Edward with 18 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists, Oyebanji Mustapha had 13 points while Hilary Aigbokhaode made 10 points and 3 rebounds.
The newly promoted team out-rebounded Hoopers , 51-37 with Ifeoluwa Balogun recording 14 rebounds while Jide Ogunsemore made 11 rebounds.
Nwaiwu brilliantly powered Hoopers through crucial moments in the game. He made 4/6 of his shots and scored 7/7 from the free throw line.
With 7:38 left on the clock, Nwaiwu tied the game 59-59 giving an opportunity to his team to snatch a win after a 5-2 run. But the former champions missed 4 out of 6 free throws with 4 minutes remaining and scored 18/31 of their free throws in the entire game.
“My players will have confidence that even at the Conference 6 playoffs Hoopers can be beaten. First season for Hoops & Read beating all the big teams in the Atlantic Conference its good for us to have such an experience and we look forward to beating them more at the playoffs,” he said.
Hoopers coach Ogoh Odaudu who celebrated his birthday on Thursday said the loss was not a perfect gift hoping they make it up to him in their next game.
“It was not what I wanted but unfortunately we lost. I hope they will make it up to me on Saturday, said Odaudu.
“I’ll blame it on fatigue the boys didn’t play anything at all in the first 2 quarters. We struggled to keep up with the pace . And by the time we got our rhythm in the last quarter we just couldn’t keep up.”the disappointed Odaudu explained
Rivers Hoopers will play their last regular season game against NAF Rockets on Saturday in Lagos