Air Warriors upset First Bank, set up newcomers final against MFM
That was at the expense of defending champions and record titleholders, First Bank, as well as former champions, Dolphins, both of Lagos. So, what happened?
Yesterday at the indoor hall of the National Stadium, Lagos, First Bank strolled into the arena with that air of invincibility that had often scared their opponents to submission even before the tip-off. The fans didn’t expect less because First Bank has the best hands in the women’s game. But Air Warriors had different ideas.
Air Warriors and FirstBank had both won their previous four games in the Final Eight and their semifinal game was billed as the clash of titans.
FirstBank, who had been unbeaten since 2015 and have won nine national titles, looked on course for another win as they took a 15-7 lead in the first quarter.
The Lagos club increased the lead to 32-23 points at the end of the second quarter and did not let up in the third quarter, extending their advantage to 49-36.
But the determined Air Warriors fought back from the 13-point deficit to tie 58-58 deep into the fourth quarter.
Air Warriors took the lead (60-59) for the first time with just 38 seconds left on the clock and held on for the narrow win before a hugely excited audience at the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium, Lagos.
Although the Elephant Ladies tied the game again at 61-61 with 30 seconds left, Air Warriors were undaunted and won by one point to reach their first final.
They will meet MFM in today’s final at the same venue.
MFM defeated former league champions, Dolphins 58 to 53 to take the second final ticket.
Speaking after their victory, Air Warriors’ Coach, Samson Sotiminu told The Guardian that victory against the Elephant Girls did not come as a surprise to him.
“At the first quarter of the game, I told my girls to be focused but they were carried away by First Bank’s past record. I told them to realise that they were playing against their fellow ladies, not the First Bank.
“That statement propelled them to go the extra mile to defeat the defending champions. Coming this far as newcomers delights the entire coaching crew.
“Our focus is the final. Getting a continental ticket after booking the final ticket has put Air Warriors in the World map,” he said.
An equally elated MFM Coach, Adewumi Aderemi said they achieved victory through hard work and determination.
“My experience gave me the victory with MFM. I will go back and see how I can beef up the team for the continental engagement. As for the final tie, my girls will do their best to carry the day,” he said.
With the victories, Air Warriors and MFM have guaranteed spots in the FIBA Africa Zone Three Champions Cup qualifiers in Cotonou scheduled for October 28 to November 3.