Victor James scored 12 points while Victor Dakoru added 11 as Rivers Hoopers were beaten by 60-62 points by Nigeria Customs on home court on Friday.
Ogan Idikibiebuma, Somto Managor and Victor Atisele added 6 points each but they were largely insufficient to pull down the Lagos side who had Emmanuel Balogun to thank for the vital 3 pointers he converted in the game.
After leading by a narrow 13-10 margin in the first quarter, the former champions disappointingly posted an unimpressive second quarter return, scoring just 8 points, the poorest quarter they have ever had since the start of the season.
However, large part of the game was a cagey affair between the two sides and on five different occasions, the game was tied on points by the two teams. In the second quarter (5:22 16-16, 2:32 20-20, 0:54 21-21) and in the third (7:50 28-28, 3:59 33-33) before Customs extended their lead in the early stages of the fourth quarter by 11 points (39-50).
Hoopers were however made to do catch up in the last quarter , reducing the deficit to four points before losing the game by 2 points and could only convert 18 out of their 31 free throw attempts in the entire game.
Although, the game could have gone into overtime when it was 59-61 after Victor James won two free throws but the former Union Bank point guard could not replicate his performance in Ibadan when his two free shots with 5 second left remaining took the game to overtime and was eventually won by the Port Harcourt side. On Friday, he missed both attempts as Customs held on for their win.
Hoopers head coach, Ogoh Odaudu bemoaned the absence of key players to injuries.
“A lot of things went wrong,” he reflected. “We lost few of our players to injuries before and during the game while our best shooter, Ronald Alalibo was not available for the game. We are going to come out tomorrow (Saturday) and redeem ourselves while we hope that the win one, lose one trend will be broken some other time.” Odaudu said.
Despite also losing some players to injury, Customs coach Scott Nnaji was happy with the win against Hoopers.
“I am happy because my team after going to Delta three of my players got injured and the other two are sick I only came with just10 players. The 10 players all agreed to do their best and I am happy they did.” said Nnaji who is also the Women’s National Basketball team coach.
Both teams will take to the court once again on Saturday at the same venue.