Basketball: Rivers Hoopers Out-Dunk New Boys NAF Rockets

Rivers Hoopers dismantled newly promoted NAF Rockets 91-54 on Thursday at the Basketball Court in Port Harcourt.

Emmanuel Balogun scored 19 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists while Benjamin Ikechukwu added 15 points, 4 rebounds and made 1 steal in a comprehensive performance by Hoopers.

The KingsMen struggled to find their rhythm in the first quarter but were able to pick up midway through the second, building a 10 point lead with 7:54secs remaining. It later turned out to be explosive in the second half of the game.

The only time Hoopers trailed was early in the first quarter (3-4) with 8:35 remaining and later led by 30 points even as many as 34 points in the final quarter with less than 5 mins left to play.

Buchi Nwaiwu came off the bench, his first appearance of the season since moving to the Port Harcourt side, making an immense contribution in the second quarter adding 6 rebounds and 2 steals with 1 block.

Once Rockets got on the board, they had problem with turnovers leaving Center, Oghenetano Emuhowo to take advantage of them. The former Delta Force 5, made 11 rebounds and a block.

Balogun who made 3 of 6 from three point range made the final one at the sound of the buzzer to bring the tally to a record breaking point of 91.

It is the first time since renaming the club from Royal Hoopers to Rivers Hoopers that the team will score as much as 90 points in a game.

The last time Hoopers recorded 90 points and above was in 2011 League finals against Union Bank (102-72) and 2013 final League game against Kwara Falcons before getting relegated.

NAF Rockets coach, Usman Abba attributed the loss to the absence of some key players in his team.

“Today happened to be our bad day,” began a somber Abba.

“If you look at the crop of guys in our team you will see we played 9 against 12 due to one thing or the other. Some of our guys couldn’t make it here if not we would have done better and they were among our first five, about three of them missed this game,” he explained further.

Usman Abba however seems sure his team can shock Hoopers when they visit Lagos in the second round.

“I guarantee you guys that when Hoopers come to Lagos, they will bring back different news courtesy of us,” he boasted.

Rivers Hoopers head coach, Ogoh Odaudu admitted his side took advantage of their weak opponents from Lagos.

“It was a good game for us despite the fact that we were playing against a very weak team that had only 9 players,” Ogoh posited.

The former Nigeria international also sympathized with the plight of his opponents and commended their performance in the midst of their troubles.

“They traveled over the night from Lagos to Port Harcourt, got here early this morning and I can imagine the level of tiredness.

“But they put up a good fight you couldn’t tell that they were that tired all in all it was a good game for us,” said Odaudu.

On why the former champions were sloppy in the first half, Odaudu blamed it on overconfidence.

“It was a little bit of over confidence. They (probably) looked at the team, they had 9 players they didn’t know any known name that was going to give them problem and so they relaxed,” he explained.

“I had to do a little bit of yelling at half time and that’s why we came out firing in the third quarter.

“It could have been a game we could have scored above 100 if we had played well in the first half but we didn’t play well in the first half we scored 41 points and added 50 points in the second half.

“If we had scored more in the first, we would have scored over a 100 baskets easily,” Odaudu concluded.

Rivers will next play host to Hoops and Read on Saturday in Port Harcourt.

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