Immediately after Nigeria’s amazing 80-79 triumph over Greece in the Quarter-Finals, point guard Tony Skinn had little doubt about how significant it was.

“It’s got to be the greatest victory in Nigerian history,” he said.

While coaches are usually reluctant to make such proclamations, Nigerian boss Ayo Bakare agreed as he reflected on defeating the world’s fourth and fifth ranked teams in consecutive games.

“The last two victories are the greatest, because we have never broken into the top 20,” he said.

Remarkably, after being 13 points down with 6:51 to play in the third quarter the African bronze medallists charged back to within a basket less than four minutes later.

Greece appeared to answer every challenge, usually through the brilliant Vasileios Spanoulis (25 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists), but Nigeria never stopped believing.

“Greece was a team we felt we had a pretty good shot at beating ,” forward Ike Diogu said.

“We played them earlier in Brazil and we had that game with five minutes to go until we broke down.”

The Africans finally drew level with 6:06 left in the final period, from where the game became an incredible exchange of tough shots at both ends.

Diogu had seven points and four crucial rebounds in the last 10 minutes, along with a string of hustle plays.

“I know him as the heart and soul of our team,” Bakare said.

“When there is a key rebound he is there, when there is a key block he is there, when we need a basket he is there.”

The real hero though, was guard Ade Dagunduro, who scored Nigeria’s last seven points including a clutch three-pointer in the last minute and two free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining.

He then bravely blocked Spanoulis’ game-winning attempt to seal Nigeria’s greatest triumph.

“I honestly can’t describe it,” he said of the elation after the game.

“When we got 12 down I was like ‘aw man’. But we believed, we believed until the last minute.”

FIBA

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