BEIRUT, Lebanon (WABA League): Hamed Afagh’s tenacious shooting prowess in the third quarter propelled Mahram ahead after a fragmented display by both teams, and the Iranian giants proved too smart and shrewd to counter – and quell – Al Riyadi Beirut’s vigorous attempts for a revival, to win 67-59 in Game 2 of the WABA League Finals on Tuesday.
Mahram now carry home the advantage of playing all the three possible remaining games of this high-profile and highly volatile best-of-five clash for supremacy of basketball in WABA region at their very own Azadi Arena in Tehran. Mahram, of course, will have the opportunity to finish it off in the next two games – back-to-back next Monday and Tuesday – but we’ll come to that later.
Riyadi coach Fouad Abouchakra will surely spend a sleepless night wondering on where he missed the plot especially after the Manara team had staged a remarkable recovery to overcome the absence of Game 1 hero Dewarick Spencer’s absence for a better part of the second quarter.
The American, who had a monstrous 39 points leading Riyadi’s win on Monday, bruised his ankle in the early part of the second quarter – after playing an impressive second fiddle to Omar Turk in the first quarter – and sat with his leg packed with ice for the rest of the period, during which Mahram seemed to edge ahead – and they did for the first time in the game with a 10-0 run.
But Riyadi dug deep into their reserves – in hindsight a little too deep draining the resources – to bounce back with 10 unanswered points of their own and went into the changing room break with their heads held high and ahead on the scoreboard.
However, it was Mahram think-tank which seemed to have used their heads more during the break.
For, when the teams returned, Mahram unleashed Hamed Afagh and Riyadi went back to a languid – even if not limping – Spencer handing out the advantage of pace and speed to the Iranians.
Afagh, as is known in the past, who had a rather subdued first half, set the court ablaze accounting for 10 of his game’s 13 points in the period and put Mahram clearly ahead in the race.
Ismail Ahmad’s three-pointer helped Riyadi tie the score at the end of the third period, but surely the defending champions looked far from coordinated in their offense and worse off in their cohesion in defense for the remainder of the game.
Mahram didn’t need a second invitation to finish off the game without any further hiccups!
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia