Following its loss to Mark Mentors in last season’s finals, Kano Pillars Basketball Club came back from a 4-point deficit against Lagos-based Nigerian Customs after the first quarter to win the 2016 DStv Premier Basketball league finals at the weekend.
Kano Pillars defeated Customs 71-53 points in the final match up, which took place at the indoor hall of the National Stadium, Lagos.
In a towering display of skills and experience, Kano Pillars, tutored by Sani Ahmed, were losing 13-17 after the first quarter, but came back to emphatically dominate the second by 27-7 points to lead 40-24 at half-time.
Pillars continued their impressive form in the third quarter winning by 22-19 as the Nigerian Customs, tutored by Scott Nnaji and playing in their first Finals in over a decade, fought back to take the last quarter 10-9.
However, it was a little too late as Kano Pillars had won the Finals with veteran player, Abubakar Usman, amassing 24 points and nine rebounds, while his teammate, AbdulWahab Yahaya, scored 13 points and had nine rebounds.
With the victory, Kano Pillars, which has now won its fifth title having been previously crowned champions in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014, and Nigerian Customs will represent the country in the African basketball championship.
In the third place match, Coach Ogoh Daudu inspired the Rivers Hoopers to defeat Kwara Falcons in a tightly contested game, winning 59 to 57 points.
In other classification games, Plateau Peaks defeated Nigeria Potters to emerge as fifth and sixth placed teams respectively, while Gombe Bulls took a 75-50 point win over Oluyole Warriors to take seventh and eight positions.
Speaking after the action-packed games, the Marketing Manager of DStv Nigeria, Chioma Afe, expressed delight over the high standard of play exhibited during the finals.
Are said: “We are very happy with the passion, dedication and commitment of the players, coaches and administrators of the game during this league season.
“At DStv, we are excited at the progress basketball is making, which is indicated in the number of fans returning to court.
“We are fully committed to enhancing the game in Nigeria by introducing innovation and excitement in the coming season.”
Speaking on Pillars and Customs continental chances, the President of the Nigeria Basketball Federation, Tijani Umar, said: “Pillars are back to where they’ve always been over the years.
“We have had challenges with the teams who represent us on the continent.
“My expectation is that this year, Kano Pillars will rise and surpass past exploits.
“They must get creative and better and they must play in the mould of the Kano pillars of old.
“Customs must regroup, buy better players and put more resources on the table so that when they go into the tournament, Nigeria can stand tall and at least get to the semi final.”
At the end of the games, individual honours went to Abubakar Usman of Kano Pillars, who was named the Most Valuable Player.
He also won the Best 3-point and finals highest scorer award.
Romeo Wilfred emerged the highest rebounder, while his team, Kwara Falcons, went away with the Fair Play trophy.
The lively occasion also featured a FIBA 3×3 basketball game with select players from the league for the first time in Nigeria.
There was also a musical performance from the award winning Gongo Aso crooner, 9ce, who thrilled the audience with a mash-up of his various hits like Street Credibility, No be mistake, while Nigeria’s finest dance crew, Dance Na the Main Thing, engaged the energetic cheer leaders in a dance performance at half time.