Mark ‘D’ Ball: FCT Hardrockers halt highfliers Nigeria Customs’ winning run

By Victor Okoye
The Nigeria Customs Basketball team’s winning run was halted on Wednesday as they bowed 94-84 to a youthful FCT Hardrockers side in the ongoing Mark ‘D’ Ball Men’s basketball championship in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that high fliers Nigeria Customs came into the game on the back of a three-game winning streak and looked to extend their record against the less fancied FCT Hardrockers.
The youthful and enterprising FCT Hardrockers who were on a high spirit after winning their last two consecutive games started the game on the front foot from the blast of the referee’s whistle.
They surprisingly dominated the game from the first quarter and mesmerised the more experienced Nigeria Customs players to show full control in the last seconds of the game.
Favour Adama who is already a toast of many at the  tournament proved his mettle again as he topped scores with 30 points.
His contributions also included four rebounds, two assists and two turnovers as he led FCT Hardrockers to a comprehensive thrashing of Nigeria Customs.

Illustration for Mark ‘D’ Ball Basketball Championship

Even the screaming of the renowned Nigeria Customs team coach, Scott Nnaji, from the sidelines could not change the situation, as the FCT Hardrockers players were dunking and slamming with ease.
The dribbling skills of the FCT Hardrockers players left a jam-packed crowd at the Indoor Hall Package B of Moshood Abiola National Stadium shell-shocked and perplexed.
Still trailing, hope almost came the way of the Customs clubside in the fourth quarter, when the scoreline was 74-77.
But the fast and energetic FCT Hardrockers players dazzled in less than 78 seconds to round up the game 94-84 and thereby solidify their third position on the Group C eight-team table.
Nigeria Customs on the other hand relinquished their top spot position to Kwara Falcons as they slipped to the second position on the log.
Emmanuel Odah, Coach of FCT Hardrockers who expressed delight at the team’s victory, told NAN however that he was pleasantly surprised as he never expected his team to win the game.
He noted that the key his team’s success was the ability of the players to listen and obey his instructions during the game.
“My praises goes to God first and foremost as then to my young players who in their youthful exuberance were still obedient to our rules and regulations as well as my instructions.
“We have little standards that we keep as a group and one of the things we do in this team is that we honour each other.
“The point guards honour the forwards and vice versa. Everybody in turn honours the assistant coach and the assistant coach also honours the head coach.
“We all as a team also honour the Sports Council which we represent.
“Indeed, the Mark ‘D’ Ball tournament is beginning to put us in a daydreaming mood and we feel so great winning the much respected and highly rated Nigeria Customs team,” he said.
Results of other Matchday four games also played on Wednesday saw Plateau Peaks survive a late onslaught by Niger Potters to register their first victory of the tournament.
Plateau Peaks for the first time, since the tournament dunked off, smiled out of the Indoor Hall after a 78-67 victory over Niger Potters and moved one step up to the sixth spot on the log.
Niger Potters switched places with the Jos-based clubside, dropping from sixth to the seventh spot on the log.
“Finally, finally we were able to find our bearing in the Mark ‘D’ Ball Championships.
“Indeed, we are one of the top teams when you talk about Basketball in this country and so we don’t deserve to be at the position were we’ve found ourselves.
“We have been so unlucky in our last three games as we’ve always lost from winning positions in the last minute.
“By the grace of God, this victory will surely spur us to another victory tomorrow (Thursday) against Suleja Bulldogs,” an excited Plateau Peaks Captain, Garba Iriafen said.
Earlier, Civil Defenders who were looking for redemption after two consecutive losses on the bounce, got back to winning ways, outdunking Warri-based CAMAC 72-61 to move up one step up to the fourth spot on the log.
CAMAC still remain deeply rooted at the bottom of the table being the only team yet to record a win so far in the tourney.
Also, Table-toppers Kwara Falcons spanked the young and energetic Suleja Bulldogs 71 – 49 to emerge as the only team to maintain their 100 percent winning record so far in the tournament
The result meant that the Ilorin-based side extended their winning streak to four games, while Suleja Bulldogs dropped from fourth to the fifth spot on the log.
The three-month long championship which resumed on Sunday with the Phase 1, Group two round of games is expected to end on Saturday.
Five teams will qualify from the eight-team group for the Round of 16.
They will join the likes of Mo’ Heat, Gombe Bulls, Hot Coal Ballers, Nile University Spartans and APA Flames who have already qualified from Phase 1 Group 1.
Phase 1 Group 2 standings after four matches
S/N TEAM                 P   W  L   GF    GA    PTS GD
1.  Kwara Falcons      4   4  0    296   242     8 +54
2. Nigeria Customs   4   3  1   342   282     7 +60
3. FCT Hardrockers  4   3 1  330     293    7   +37
4. Civil Defenders     4    2  2  268   270    6 -2
5. Suleja Bulldogs     4    2  2   267  288   6   – 21
6.  Plateau Peaks      4   1  3  268    278    5   -10
7.  Niger Potters      4  1  3 269    322     5  -53
8.  CAMAC                4   0  4  270   336    4   -66

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