Basketball: Rivers Hoopers beat US Monastir to reach historic semi-finals

Nigeria’s representative at the ongoing 2024 Basketball Africa League (BAL), Rivers Hoopers BC, achieved the historic feat of reaching their first-ever semi-final at the tournament after earning a tough 92-88 victory over former BAL Champions US Monastir of Tunisia in the quarter-final.

Rivers Hoopers went into the quarterfinal encounter on the back of consecutive defeats; against US Monastir in the final game of the Sahara Conference, and AS Douanes (Senegal) during the classification round at the BAL Playoffs in Kigali, Rwanda.

On the other hand, US Monastir were riding the wave of four straight wins. However, it was the KingsMen, Rivers Hoopers, who started brighter and looked on the front foot until late in the opening quarter when US Monastir rallied to take a slim one-point advantage as the first quarter ended 21-20 in favour of the Tunisians.

Rivers Hoopers increased the intensity in the second quarter and enjoyed a brilliant scoring run to end the quarter 25-19 for a five-point lead at halftime, with the scores at 45-40 in favour of the Hoopers.

Kelvin Amayo scored 18 points to help Rivers Hoopers to a BAL quarterfinal win against US Monastir on 27 May, 2024. Photograph: Nacer Talel / NBAE via Getty Images

Both Rivers Hoopers and US Monastir had met on three separate occasions before the quarter-final encounter. US Monastir defeated Rivers Hoopers during the maiden edition of the BAL while both teams recorded one win each from their meetings at this year’s Sahara Conference.

The third quarter showed the competitive nature of both teams as they battled for every possession with Rivers Hoopers edging their Tunisian opponents 23-22 to take a six-point lead into the fourth quarter, with the scoreboard reading 68-62 in favour of the KingsMen.

A tense fourth quarter saw US Monastir edge Rivers Hoopers by two points with scores of 26–24 in favour of the Tunisians.

But it was the Hoopers who roared loudest at the final buzzer as they held on for a nervy 4-point win, as the final result stood at 92-88 in favour of the KingsMen.

Will Perry, who played every second of the contest, was named the game’s top performer as he put up a game-high 33 points along with five rebounds, five assists, and four steals. Three players hit double-doubles for the Rivers Hoopers, as Kelvin Amayo finished with 18 points and 10 assists, Peter Olisemeka had 18 points and 12 rebounds, and Devine Eke put up 16 points and 12 rebounds.

The result means Rivers Hoopers are the first Nigerian side to reach the last four at Africa’s biggest club basketball championship.

Up next for the KingsMen is a date with Libya’s Al Ahly for a place in the championship game. The game will take place on Wednesday, 29th May, at the BK Arena, Kigali, Rwanda.