Not all stories are destined for happy endings but what a story it would have been for the 2019 Zenith Bank Women’s Basketball League finalists MFM Queens.
Queens, formed just last year with a coterie of young players thrown together under the tutelage of famed basketball coach Adewunmi Aderemi, in only their second year in the Zenith Bank Women’s Basketball League, came within 3 points of forcing overtime in Thursday’s final against champions Air Warriors.
Although Air Warriors who won Thursday’s final by 55-52 points are themselves first-timers in the league, they, however, boast veterans of the women’s game within their ranks and in League MVP Marjanatu Musa, they possess a player who has already been invited to Nigeria’s national 3×3 squad.
Having been given advance notice of what to expect in the final when both sides clashed earlier in the Final 8, Queens head coach Adewunmi Aderemi felt his side were well prepared for the final but admitted that the occasion got to his girls who, he says, were undone by nerves.
“We learned a lot of lessons from the first game but my guys were jittery,” Aderemi told busybuddiesng.com.
“They were afraid, and I gave them confidence that “look, they are human beings like you, and once you step on the basketball court you don’t have any regard for anybody you play your game”. So they made up their minds to come out and play, but it was a little bit too late.”
It did take a while for MFM Queens to get going especially in the first half where they found it difficult to come to grips with the aggressive front court defensive strategy employed by Air Warriors who ended the half with an eleven point lead.
Queens improved immeasurably after the break and matched Air Warriors in the third quarter before going on to win the fourth 17-9 and were a missed two-point shot away from tying the game and forcing overtime.
“We scouted the way they play, and they put a lot of pressure on everybody from the front court. But we had an attitude that we were able to break it but we were unable to convert all the baskets,” Aderemi said, rueing their missed shots.
Their loss in the final notwithstanding, Aderemi feels a sense of pride in what his wards have achieved this season especially as not many gave them a chance considering the calibre of teams in the Final 8.
After losing out in the semifinals last year, a silver medal and a place on the continent is adequate recompense for the efforts of his players he says.
A lot more work still remains for his side he says, but he envisages an even better outcome next season for MFM Queens.
“Actually, I am very happy with the result of the game we played today,” the former D’Tigers assistant coach told busybuddiesng.com.
“Initially, nobody gave us the chance of getting to the finals. So we sailed through the quarterfinals, we sailed through the semifinals and we played the final and we lost by only two points.
“It’s a great effort from my players, great effort from the other team that won. We still have a lot of work to do, and by next season, by the grace of God first position.”