Kwara Falcons lost to Sahara Conference hosts AS Douanes 75-68 on Saturday night, and, are out of the BAL playoffs race.

It was the Nigerian champions’ fourth loss in as many games in Dakar.

Kwara will play their last game of the 2023 BAL season on Monday, March 19 when they take on Abidjan Basket Club.

For Falcons guard Michael Oriakhi, it’s about time to reflect and take the positives from the BAL experience.

“As we are down 0-4, it’s a wakeup call for us, the home-based players,”

Said Oriakhi.

He observed: “We need to step up, we need to play more games in our country for us to be able to compete on this kind of big stage.”

Even Falcons head coach Kadri Jibril admitted that the BAL has been “a learning experience. We really wanted to move to the next round, but it is what it is,”

Oriakhi went on saying that he won’t be the same player again: “Having the opportunity to the be on the court with experienced players – and they are so good – I hope next time when we qualify for the next BAL we’ll do better.

It’s the second time that a Nigerian champion miss out on the BAL playoffs spots.

Rivers Hoopers, the first club to represent Nigeria in the inaugural BAL in 2021, lost two of their three group phase games.

And although the Port Harcourt-based club finished in the third place of Group B, which would be enough to advance, they fell short of the elimination round due to the -41 point differential compared to the groups’ teams.

“In Nigeria we need to play more games throughout the season,”

“The more games you play, the more you get better to be able to compete at this level.”

Oriakhi admitted, adding.

Oriakhi averaged 4.8 points in 14.8 minutes in the first four games of the Sahara Conference.

His talent is unquestionable.

Rather than coming off the bench, coach Jibril assigned Oriakhi to a starting role against the home team, and he delivered 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in 27:33 minutes.

“Day by day we get better as a team. We get better every single game. I am very sure we’ll do better in our next game,”

Oriakhi insisted.

When the 19-year-old was asked about the lessons taken from the BAL, he noted that even when a team is trailing by a large difference, “You never back down, keep up hustling. Teams display have a lot of energy on the floor.”

At personal level he learned that ball handling and shooting are must-have skills. “The way [BAL] point guards shoot the ball and run plays, it’s great. Going back to my country I’m going to be working hard on my game.”

Source: BAL


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