By Steve Ruthsatz, Southern Poly (Ga.) Sports Information Director
MARIETTA, Ga. – Sarah Ogoke, a senior member of the Southern Polytechnic State University women’s basketball team, recently competed for Nigeria in the AfroBasket Women 2013 tournament held in Maputo, Mozambique from Sept. 20-29. Ogoke is in her third year as a member of the Nigerian National Team, D’Tigress, and played in the same event, which takes place every two years, in 2011.
“The competition was top-notch,” Ogoke said. “The national teams are comprised of about 90 percent professionals. There are some college players here and there, but pretty much everybody else is a pro.
“The main thing about African basketball that I can say is different from American basketball is that they are extremely aggressive. The defense starts once you grab the rebound.”
The tournament featured 12 teams from throughout Africa with the top two, champion Angola and runner-up Mozambique, advancing to the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women in Istanbul, Turkey. Nigeria finished in sixth place after putting together a 4-4 overall record, including 2-3 in group play.
Ogoke came off the bench in all eight games for D’Tigress, averaging a team-high 10.5 points and 2.8 rebounds per contest. She shot 59.6 percent (28-of-47) from the field, including 81.5 percent (22-of-27) on two-point attempts.
“Last time (in 2011), the whole experience was new to me and I was like a deer in headlights,” Ogoke said. “But this time around I knew exactly what to expect, I knew what the competition was going to be like and I knew exactly how to prepare.”
Nigeria finished fourth in Group B to qualify for bracket play. In the quarterfinal round, D’Tigress lost to host Mozambique, 77-74, as Ogoke poured in a game-high 25 points in 27 minutes on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor, making three three-pointers in front of a raucous, sold-out crowd.
“I would say, personally, the highlight of the entire tournament was when we played the home team of Mozambique in the quarterfinals,” Ogoke said. “They were the No. 1 team from the other group and everybody was hyped. At that game, the stadium was packed to the brim and the atmosphere was wild.
“It was an experience of a lifetime, to be honest with you. I was just so happy to be able to play for Nigeria and at the same time represent Southern Poly. It’s just been a blessing.”
Ogoke, a 5-foot-9 guard, was born in Bronx, N.Y., but grew up in Sugar Land, Texas. Both of her parents, Bentley Ogoke and Edith Okere, were born in Nigeria.
As a junior last season, her first at Southern Polytechnic, Ogoke helped lead the Hornets to a 25-6 overall record, a berth in the NAIA Division I national tournament and a final national ranking of 25th. Ogoke was a 2013 NAIA Division I Third Team All-American after being named as both the Southern States Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. She led Southern Poly in scoring (18.9 points per game) and rebounds (9.6 a contest) in 2012-13 while also tallying 2.7 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.1 blocked shots per outing.