Photo Gallery of the Game
TEHRAN, Iran (WABA League): Tuesday night, undoubtedly, was a tribute to the strength of WABA basketball and to get more precise in terms of results a tribute to Lebanese resilience and resourcefulness after an increasingly depleting Al Riyadi Beirut pulled off a 101-93 win against Mahram in Game 4 of the WABA League Finals and thus forcing a Game 5.
Riyadi arrived in Tehran with only nine players, and without one of their first-choice imports; on Tuesday morning Jean Abd El Nour joined the list of injury casualties leaving coach Fouad Abouchakra scratching his head harder than normal; to make matters worse the Lebanese giants further lost their power forwards Ali Kanaan and William Pharis – the former toward the end of the third quarter and the latter midway through the fourth period leaving Riyadi looking ragged. But as things proved to be, only on paper!
Mahram, on the other hand, began slow and steady; seemed to grow in strength through the second quarter and till midway through the third; but when the opportunity beckoned seemed to miss a trick or two leaving gaping holes in their rivals open, often caught unawares to the Riyadi fast-breaks.
Coach Mostafa Hashemi was surely left wondering which page of the coaching book he missed especially when the odds seemed to overwhelmingly favor his side.
“Basketball is all about how we finish the game,” said Abouchakra.
“We lost in the final period yesterday and learnt our lessons. And today it showed,” he said.
Dewarick Spencer had 13 of his game-high 26 points in the final quarter; Amir Saoud 10 of his 15; Omar Turk 9 of his dozen during the final quarter of play, which had begun on par at 65.
Veteran Joe Vogel (pic above) was at his vintage best with 13 points and 6 rebounds and held the Riyadi combination together especially when they were outsized – in the absence of Pharis and Kanaan – in the final quarter.
“I have to give it to the players. When a 39-year-old (Vogel) plays hard and plays to win, there is no better heartening situation for the coach,” Abouchakra went on.
“Well we are experience to handle such situations,” Abouchakra said about the absence of Pharis and Kanaan for the better part of the fourth period during which Riyadi made the decisive move.
“In a manner of speaking that (the absence) spurred us to do better. The team came together very well in defense and were more hard working to keep the spirit. In fact my job was a lot easier in the fourth period,” he said.
Where Riyadi flourished, Mahram floundered.
Senegalese Pape Sow was the only player on the court with a semblance of stability as the rest of them were left stranded more often than they would have desired.
Samad Bahrami and Mahdi Kamrani had only 5 each of their 28 and 17 and Hamed Afagh drew a blank in the fourth quarter.
That in a nutshell sums up the entire story of fairy-tale resurgence of Riyadi. Another six days will show if they can turn it on again in Game 5!
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia