(Refiles to fix typo in lead)
CARACAS, July 9 Nigeria will make their Olympic
basketball debut in London after beating the Dominican Republic
88-73 in the decisive qualifier on Sunday.
Having arrived in Venezuela as complete underdogs in the
12-team tournament offering three London berths, Nigeria
completed their memorable campaign with a resounding victory
over the Dominicans - another surprise package.
Apart from the west African nation, who stunned former
European champions Greece to reach the last four, Russia and
Lithuania have also booked their London berths from this
qualifier on Saturday.
The trio will join United States, Argentina, Spain, France,
Tunisia, Brazil, Australia and China who had qualified earlier
alongside hosts Great Britain.
Nigeria forward Ike Diogu capped an outstanding individual
tournament with 25 points and 10 rebounds, confining his
Dominican counterpart Al Horford of NBA's Atlanta Hawks to just
12 points and shooting only five of 11 from the field.
With the Dominicans cutting the deficit to just two points
at the end of the third quarter, Diogu nailed 10 successive
points in the closing stages to send his team mates and a small
band of Nigerian supporters into raptures.
"If you are a big-time player you have to relish those
moments and that's what I did, having decided to carry my team
at crunch time," Diogu told the world basketball governing
body's (FIBA) television in a courtside interview.
Forward Derrick Obasohan added: "We had the toughest
schedule in the tournament but nothing was going to stop us
tonight because we were on a mission."
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade; Editing by Amlan