Nigeria have now qualified to meet defending champions United States in the FIBA Women’s World Cup quarterfinals following a thrilling 57-56 defeat of Greece on Wednesday.
Emmanuoela Fasoula led all scorers with 18 points, while Evelyn Akhator and Ezinne Kalu both scored 14 points to lead Nigeria. s and Atonye Nyingifa also reached in double figures as D’Tigress continued their impressive march in the competition.
Sarah Imovbioh, who started at center in place of the injured Amina Mohammed, won the jump ball but Akhator missed from midrange. However, D’Tigress showed what was to come as Ezinne Kalu sank a trey to open the scoring for the day.
Maria Fasoula scored for Greece, Imovbioh concerted a lay-up, before Akhator scored with a jumper and a pair of free throws either side of a Pinelopi Pavlopoulou shot to make it 9-4.
Both teams then kept it close and traded baskets until they tied at 13 each, before Nyingifa sank two free throws, and Eleana Christianki made a midrange shot with 45 seconds left to tie the scores at 15 all at the end of the first quarter.
Greece took the lead for the first time after just 13 seconds in the second quarter when Evanthia Maltsi sank a shot from range off, and Artemis Spanou and Maltsi extended their lead to seven points at 22-15 before D’Tigress went on a 5-0 run to make it 22-20.
D’Tigress went on another mini-run and temporarily took the lead at 25-24, before both teams exchanged buckets until D’Tigress closed the second quarter with a 5-0 run that gave Nigeria a 31-26 lead going into half-time.
Greece resumed the third quarter the same way they started the second as Fasoula converted a lay-up, but Nyingifa responded with a jump shot. Promise Amukamara made a jump shot and completed the three-point play as she was fouled on the shot to give D’Tigress a 36-28 lead with 1:57 played in the third quarter.
Maltsi sank a trey to make it 36-31, but Nigeria replicated their third quarter surge against Turkey, and went on a 8-0 run to stretch the lead to double figures at 44-31 and force Greece to call a timeout with 3:55 left in the quarter.
With Nigeria leading 48-36, the poor free throw shooting of the Greeks caught up with them as Fasoula missed two freebies. Christinaki returned to the line and sank one of two to bring the score to 48-37 and the end of the third quarter.
But it was the Greeks who started the final quarter the brighter of the two sides as Fasoula made two quick lay-ups and completed a three-point play after Kalu made one of two free throws to cut the Nigerian lead to five at 49-44.
The lead dwindled to just two points with 3:11 left to play, when Maltsi concerted a lay-up to bring the score to 51-49. Kalu got a steal and Nyingifa and Atonye made lay-ups to keep Nigeria in front, but Artemis Spanou scored four points on a lay-up and a jump shot to keep the Greeks alive, trailing by just two points at 55-53.
Styliani Kaltsidou missed the chance to tie the game with just under a minute left as she made one of two throws to bring the score to 55-54. But the Greeks came good on the line at the right time, as Kaltsidou made both free throws to give Greece the lead for the first time in the fourth quarter at 56-55 with 20 seconds left.
But Elo Edeferioka responded with two free throws of her own to put D’Tigress back in control at 57-56. Then Ezinne Kalu missed the chance to put the game away with two missed free throws, but there was no time left for Greece to run any offence. The quarter-final between Nigeria and the United States will be played on Friday.
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