ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship): Fancied Lebanon were forced into a cat-mouse situation in their Group A Prelim Round game by India before scraping through by the skin of their teeth for a 65-61 win on Friday. China began their quest for an unprecedented 10th gold medal in this event breezing past Hong Kong 153-47, in another Group A game.
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Wael Arakji (pic above) fired in buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of the third quarter to give Lebanon a four-point lead, which the WABA powerhouse managed to maintain till the end over the next 10 minutes.
Arakji went on to lead Lebanon’s scoring with 25 points with 13 of them coming in the pivotal third quarter.
Lebanon had begun the game strongly racing ahead by 10 points in the early stages but India showed enough grit to bounce back and keep the game on even keel and then nudged ahead for a crucial win.
“I am happy we got off with a win against a very good opposition,” said Lebanon coach Salim Chemali.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. But we got a little lagging the second quarter. It’s probably got to do more with our travel lag, but our guards were way off the mark today, on both ends,” he said.
“I also think our team showed a lot of maturity in handling the pressure situations. Whatever the reason, I am quite happy to start with the win,” he added.
Chemali’s opposite number JP Singh was obviously dejected at the lost game, and the opportunity.
“We worked hard for the last couple of weeks and it showed on the court. But then there comes a time experience and exposure come into play. I think those two factors made all the difference,” he added.
Palpreet Brar looked solid and steady under the board on both ends of the floor and returned a game-high 28 points along with 7 rebounds.
China steamroll Hong Kong
Wang Zhelin’s towering presence translated into game-highs in scoring and rebounds.
The 215-cm center, who narrowly missed making China’s roster for the 2012 London Olympics proved more than a match for the rivals with 28 points and 10 rebounds.