Photo Gallery of the
League): For a team
playing without their main import and fielding only 9 players, defending
champions Al Riyadi Beirut showed a lot of guts, gumption and gallant efforts in
taking the fight to Mahram’s camp in the latter’s very own den in the pivotal
Game 4 of the WABA League Finals on
But pitted against a time tested combination like that of the Iranian
giants, the Lebanese team’s efforts could last only all of the first half, as
Mahram played the wait-and-watch game rather well, wore out their opponents in
the first half and when the opportunity came pounced on like with feline
ferocity to take home a 92-76 win.
Joe Vogel, standing by for the indisposed Ismail Ahmad, brought all
his years of experience into play adding an element of discipline and dedication
in every move Al Riyadi Beirut made to keep the Lebanese team in the hunt for
the first half.
Mahram coach Mostafa Hashemi would surely have been satisfied by the
support he got from the sizable crowd at the Azadi Arena – much like he had
hoped after watching the support Riyadi got on their court in Manara in the
first two games of the Finals – but what surely would have been far from
satisfying was the cohesion, or the lack of it his team showed at least early in
“He definitely caused us a lot of trouble,” Hashemi said of
Imports Georgian Nikoloz Tskitishvilli and Senegalese Pape Sow were
shut out by the tight Riyadi defense; Mahdi Kamari saw the ball slip out of his
hands more often than slip through the rival defense like it normally does;
Samad Bahrami looked were brilliant when got into their rhythm, but those
moments were more sporadic than to be expected of this
What kept Mahram afloat was a fantastic rearguard
performance from Hamed Afagh (pic
above), who had performed a similar
act in Game 2, who accounted for 10 of 23 points for the game in the second
Riyadi pulled ahead scoring the first four points of the second
quarter, and maintained that edge on the scoreboard till Afagh reeled in
back-to-back three-pointers to put Mahram ahead. William Pharis’ sizzler did
bring Riyadi back in lead, but Afagh’s efforts had surely had disturbed Riyadi’s
rhythm and resilience.
“We’ve always used him as a trump card. And everytime we demand, he
delivers,” Hashemi loaded praise on Afagh.
Mahram pull away
When the teams returned the fortunes of pendulum had surely swung
Mahram’s way, although Riyadi kept biting at their heels.
Bahrami and Afagh each had six points and Kamrani joined the party
scoring 8 of his 14 points for the game as Mahram took a firm grip on the
proceedings and flow in the game, although it was a lot closer on the
That fear too was allayed with Bahrami accounting for 12 of his
game-high 29 points in the final quarter and more importantly, Farid Aslani
showing a lot of courage and craft in keeping the rival sharpshooters Ali
Mahmoud and Omar Turk from taking their trade mark three-point attempts, and
thus kept out any rally Riyadi coach Fouad Abouchakra would have counted
“We would have liked a couple of more treys from Vogel and Spencer,”
said Riyadi coach Fouad Abouchakra.
Spencer had 21 points to lead Riyadi’s scoring, but none of his three
three-pointer attempts found the mark. Nor did Vogel’s five attempts from behind
“Ali Mahmoud twisted his toe at a crucial juncture and our shooting
was way below the mark,” Abouchakra added.
“Well we at least showed we have it in us to put up a fight. We have
another day to survive. Let’s see how it goes,” he said.
Riyadi’s task now looks uphill to win on the morrow, and force Game
5. But don’t write the Lebanese giants off yet!
S Mageshwaran / FIBA
Photo: Milad Payami / FIBA Asia