Teams Get Set For Final-8 Play Offs

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As the dunk off date for season ending Final-8 Play-offs of the Nigeria Premier League draws  closer, expectations are getting higher with most of the participating clubs dreaming of  picking one of the two available continental tickets.

The hosts, Royal Hoopers of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, are not only thinking of hosting a  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,  LOC, said that they are not only going to stage the best Final-8 in the history of the  league, but are also determined to pick one of the two continental tickets to justify the  maximum support they have received from the club’s chairman, Syndoph Endoni and the Rivers  State Government.

Ozoka expressed gratitude to the Nigeria Basketball Federation, NBBF, for awarding the  hosting rights of the tourney to them. He promised that the players, coaches, fans and other  stakeholders of the game will experience the best hospitality the people of Rivers State can  afford.

“We are happy to be awarded the rights to stage the Final-8 playoffs by the Tijjani Umar-  led board of the NBBF, and we are prepared to showcase the hospitality of the people of  Rivers State. I want to say that apart from providing a quality venue (Civic Centre) for the  championship, we have also lined up musicians who will perform and entertain fans each day  of the play-offs,” he said.

Dike Azuoma, captain of Union Bank that finished second behind Hoopers, who topped the  Atlantic Conference of the league, is also confident of his club picking a continental  ticket at the end of the tournament. “We are going to Port Harcourt for real business;  to  win a continental ticket,” he said.

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Azuoma, who is a member of D’Tigers that picked a ticket for the country  to feature in the  forthcoming FIBA-Africa Nations Cup, stated that  they are ready to compete with the  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 from  the Atlantic Conference. Police Baton are playing in the league for the first time in over  two decades.

From the Savannah Conference come the defending champions, Kano Pillars, Kada Stars, Bauchi  Nets, who are making a come back to the play-offs after ten years, while Niger Potters  picked the last slot from the Conference. However, the defending champions, Pillars remain  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 of  Port Harcourt in their last match of the regular season. But the victory could not secure  the Asaba-based team a place in the Final-8, as Police Baton had the better of Union Bank at  the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos on Friday with 70-60 points  victory to finish fourth ahead of Delta Force. Dodan Warriors completed the Atlantic  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 by  netting 52-47 points to win in Minna, while Plateau Peaks failed to show up for their home  game against defending champions, Kano Pillars in Kaduna.

—Wale Joseph