By Victor Okoye
Nigeria Customs have emerged winners of the 2022 Mark ‘D’ Ball Men’s Basketball Championship in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the victory for Customs in the final day of the championship on Sunday meant that they ended Mo’ Heat’s fairytale run in the tourney.
Mo’ Heat, an Abuja-based club side, prior to the final, were yet to lose a single game in the championship having gone a total of 20 games unbeaten since the start of the tournament in February.
The game between Mo’ Heat and Customs was quite an intense and nervy encounter as expected, as the former Nigeria Premier League champions looked to impose their dominance early in the game.
But Mo’ Heat, who had earlier beaten their opponents in the final match of the ‘Elite eight’, proved a hard nut to crack in the first quarter as scores was leveled at 15-15.
The second quarter saw a more dominant Customs side try to enforce themselves in the game as they took a six-point lead in the first five minutes.
However, it was Mo’ Heat who finished strong with a late three-pointer for a 31-26 scoreline at the end of the quarter.
It was a family affair in the third quarter as Customs staged a late comeback to level scores at 47-47 and further stretched their lead to six points at the end of the fourth quarter.
Mo’ Heat had a lot of opportunities from the free throw line but squandered 12 chances out of 21 and this affected the team’s performance to a large extent as Customs held on for a hard-fought 61-55 victory.
The winner pocketed a whopping sum of ₦ 2 million, while the runners up smiled home with ₦1.5 million.
The third place team, Gombe Bulls, who had earlier beaten Kano Pillars 67-62, settled for ₦1 million.
Michael Daramola was the stand-out performer for Customs, scoring 19 points, including four rebounds and one assist.
He combined well with Captain Ibe Agu who scored 17 points, including eight turnovers, four steals and one assist.
Mo’ Heat’s Bright Akhuetie was the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the match, with 19 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and one assist.
Customs’ Daramola took home the award for the overall MVP, while Christopher Ewaoche of Mo’ Heat was given the award for the highest block shot.
The highest rebounder award went to Solomon Ezra of Nigeria Customs, while the highest assist was given to Johnson Anaiye of Mo’ Heat.
The top five players of the tournament were Ewaoche of Mo’ Heat, Dele Ademola of Kano Pillars, Agu of Nigeria Customs, Kanyinsola Odufuwa of Gombe Bulls and Michael Okiki of Mo’ Heat.
The men’s championship, which began on Feb. 6 with a total of 24 teams, ended on Sunday.