Minutes after Kwara Falcons came up short against Rwanda Energy Group on Sunday in Dakar, Anthony Wilson Jr. refused to throw in the towel.
The Falcons fought back from a 12-point deficit in the second quarter, and in a turn of events they tied it at 31-31 early in the third quarter.
However, that resurgence meant a wake-up call for the REG, who responded with a 15-0 run to cruise to the 64-48 victory in their opening game of the Basketball Africa League (Sahara Conference).
“One game doesn’t define us,” said a defiant Wilson Jr, adding, “We got to fix what we need to fix and come firing on our next game.”
For the second time in the history of the BAL, a Nigeria team lost their opening game in the competition.
Two years ago, Nigeria’s Rivers Hoopers fell short to Rwanda’s Patriots Basketball Club on the opener of the inaugural BAL in Kigali.
Hope and fight back spirit will be key to Kwara Falcons if they are to reach the BAL playoffs, something the Hoopers failed to achieve.
“Anything can happen. We have already proven that we belong here,” Wilson Jr, went on saying.
Adonis Filer, Cleveland Thomas Jr. and Delwan Graham propelled REG’s offense, combining for 40 of the Rwandan champions’ 64 points.
DR Congo international player Pitchou Manga made his presence felt in the painted area, finishing with 12 rebounds, 4 block shots while contributing 7 points for REG.
“I am not new to the BAL. So, I knew what to expect, and I just gave my best to help our team win our first game of the BAL season. It was great to get started with a win,” Manga added.
Meanwhile, Jawad Adekoya – the only Kwara Falcons to score in double figures – finished with 15 points.
Falcons’ 21 turnovers and struggles to stop REG’s ball movement (22 assists) proved detrimental to the Nigerian champions.
“We just need to execute more. This is the first time of everybody playing together. We just need to work on things to make us better,” Wilson Jr observed.
REG guard Adonis Filer acknowledged Kwara Falcons’ effort.
“Shoutout to the Falcons for playing a good hard game,” he said.
But Filer, who is in second BAL season, went on to explain that “the next win is always the best win.”
REG take on Abidjan Basket Club Fighters on Tuesday, March 14.