Rivers Hoopers were declared 2023 Nigeria Premier Basketball League champions after defeating Nigeria Customs 77-57 to finish the season with a 13-game perfect record.
As a result, Rivers Hoopers were chosen as Nigeria’s sole participant in the 2024 Basketball Africa League.
Gboko City Chiefs defeated Hoops & Read 80-70 earlier in the day to move briefly to the top of the league rankings and open up a three-way duel for the league title, with all of Gboko City Chiefs, Rivers Hoopers, and Nigeria Customs retaining the chance of emerging champions.
The KingsMen came into the game with a strong mentality and went 14-4 in the opening five minutes of play, eventually winning the quarter 21-12.
Rivers Hoopers kept up the tempo as they gained control of the game, winning the second quarter 38-27 and leading by 11 points at halftime.
The hosts had suffered spectacular third-quarter collapses in their previous games against Gboko City Chiefs and Hoops & Read, but with the league title and a ticket to Basketball Africa closer than ever, they were able to break their third-quarter hoodoo, dominating play to end the quarter 59-47.
Customs came out fighting in the fourth quarter, but Rivers Hoopers had a fitting answer for every question asked as the KingsMen took Customs to the cleaners with a 16-5 run in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter that finished 18-10 and the Rivers Hoopers held to wrap up a 20-point blowout.
The win spurred instant celebrations from the raucous home audience, which had showed incredible support for the Hoopers throughout the Final Four tournament.
Rivers Hoopers captain Victor Anthony Koko was important in his team’s triumph, scoring a game-high 23 points and 9 rebounds on 10/13 shooting from the field and 3/3 from the free throw line on a day when the Hoopers shot 72.7% from the line. Abel Offia contributed 15 points, including three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Olatoye Duro-Ladipo scored ten points.
Customs’ scoring leaders were David Godwin (18 points), Abdul Yahaya (14 points, 100% shooting after converting all field goals and free throw attempts), and Ibe Agu (12 points).
The victory cemented Rivers Hoopers’ dominance as the unbeaten Kings of Nigerian Basketball, having gone undefeated throughout the season.
The KingsMen will continue to celebrate for a time before focusing on preparations for the 2024 Basketball Africa League, where they want to do far better than their debut appearance at Africa’s premier club basketball fiesta during its first edition.