13th September, 2010
As the dunk off date for season ending Final-8 Play-offs of the Nigeria Premier League drawsÂ closer, expectations are getting higher with most of the participating clubs dreaming ofÂ picking one of the two available continental tickets.
The hosts, Royal Hoopers of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, are not only thinking of hosting aÂ befitting tournament, but are also eyeing a continental ticket at the end of the tournament.
Speaking ahead of the championship, Ifie Ozoka, Secretary of the Local Organising Committee,Â LOC, said that they are not only going to stage the best Final-8 in the history of theÂ league, but are also determined to pick one of the two continental tickets to justify theÂ maximum support they have received from the clubâ€™s chairman, Syndoph EndoniÂ and the RiversÂ State Government.
Ozoka expressed gratitude to the Nigeria Basketball Federation, NBBF, for awarding theÂ hosting rights of the tourney to them. He promised that the players, coaches, fans and otherÂ stakeholders of the game will experience the best hospitality the people of Rivers State canÂ afford.
â€œWe are happy to be awarded the rights to stage the Final-8 playoffs by the Tijjani Umar-Â led board of the NBBF, and we are prepared to showcase the hospitality of the people ofÂ Rivers State. I want to say that apart from providing a quality venue (Civic Centre) for theÂ championship, we have also lined up musicians who will perform and entertain fans each dayÂ of the play-offs,â€ he said.
Dike Azuoma, captain of Union Bank that finished second behind Hoopers, who topped theÂ Atlantic Conference of the league, is also confident of his club picking a continentalÂ ticket at the end of the tournament. â€œWe are going to Port Harcourt for real business;Â toÂ win a continental ticket,â€ he said.
Azuoma, who is a member of Dâ€™Tigers that picked a ticket for the countryÂ to feature in theÂ forthcoming FIBA-Africa Nations Cup, stated thatÂ they are ready to compete with theÂ remaining clubs for the trophy and grab one of the two continental tickets.
Dodan Warriors and Police Baton are the other two clubs that made the Final-8 play-offs fromÂ the Atlantic Conference. Police Baton are playing in the league for the first time in overÂ two decades.
From the Savannah Conference come the defending champions, Kano Pillars, Kada Stars, BauchiÂ Nets, who are making a come back to the play-offs after ten years, while Niger PottersÂ picked the last slot from the Conference. However, the defending champions, Pillars remainÂ favourites for the trophy given the quality of the team.
Meanwhile, Delta Force of Asaba picked valuable 58-55 points away win over Royal Hoopers ofÂ Port Harcourt in their last match of the regular season. But the victory could not secureÂ the Asaba-based team a place in the Final-8, as Police Baton had the better of Union Bank atÂ the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos on Friday with 70-60 pointsÂ victory to finish fourth ahead of Delta Force. Dodan Warriors completed the AtlanticÂ Conference regular season on Saturday night with 72-57 points victory over Lagos Islanders.
At the Savannah Conference, Niger Potters fought a spirited battle to upstage AHIP Giants byÂ netting 52-47 points to win in Minna, while Plateau Peaks failed to show up for their homeÂ game against defending champions, Kano Pillars in Kaduna.