It was an epic battle between Mark Mentors and Kano Pillars – the two best teams in the Nigerian DStv Premier Basketball League Finals.
Even though Kano Pillars was considered the better of the two teams, having won most of its matches the entire 2015 season, the Abuja-based Mark Mentors were ready to take over. And they did.
It took a lot of hard work and investment in players’ welfare over a three-year period to win the championship, and it sure paid off.
Mark Mentors Head Coach, Peter Ahmedu, told Basketball Within Borders shortly after the game that his team won largely due to understudying their fiercest opponent in the league.
“We noticed during the regular season that Kano Pillars is built around one player and we capitalized on that to steal a win at home during the regular season in that player’s absence. It’s the same thing we did here tonight.” – Peter Ahmedu
That statement, indeed, has some credibility to it, going by the fact that Abubakar Usman, Kano Pillars’ center-piece and finals MVP last season, struggled for some moments in their loss to Mentors last night. Usman shot 6 of 19 from the field and turned the ball over six times during the 32:54 minutes he spent on the court even though he finished with 21 points. There were times the All-Star player seemed to lose focus in the game, refusing to pass the ball to his teammates for easy plays, which explains the reason he had only 1 assist for the night.
The Mark Mentors, on the other hand, were a better coordinated team the whole game and left nothing to chance, pouring buckets after buckets. Mentors had a 9 point lead after the end of the first quarter, with 25-16 on the score board. The second quarter was no different as Mentors kept the lead, stretching it a bit further with a jump shot by Stanley Gumut in the final 10 seconds to finish the first half 41 – 30 with Kano Pillars still trailing.
The third quarter opened with a 3-point shot from Dele Ademola, off an assist from Ibrahim Yusuf who dished out a game-high 5 dimes. The Mentors, however, continued to extend the lead with stellar contributions from Yahaya Abdul who dropped 13 points on Kano Pillars in the third quarter alone. Mark Mentors gave little doubts as to who the eventual winner would be at the end of the third quarter with an 18-point lead (61-43) over Kano Pillars.
Kano Pillars made attempts to comeback and even managed to reduce the deficit to just 7 points halfway into the fourth quarter after a steal by Abubakar Usman, converting a lay-up and bringing the scores to 63-56 with Mentors still in the lead. An assist from Anyebe Ujoh to Victor Anthony who slammed the ball in extended the lead to 68-59 with 4:41 to play in the fourth and giving Pillars little hope of a comeback. Though Abubakar Usman converted a 3-point shot in the last few seconds to bring Pillars to 77-66, but it was too late with only 4 seconds left to the end of the game.
Sani Ahmed, Pillars’ Head Coach, said he was satisfied with the outcome even though his team lost to Mark Mentors. He noted that Mentors’ win is good for the game of basketball in the country.
“I think it’s a good thing for the game of basketball because if we continue to win it would seem as if the game is not improving. But now that we’ve lost it’s a challenge for us to go back and try to improve ourselves even more.”