China Kashgar barge into Final after fourth quarter comeback
CHENZHOU (FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2016) – Petrochimi looked well on their way to the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2016 Final when they led by 9 points in the middle of the third quarter, but China Kashgar had other plans, rallying in the fourth period to win, 90-86, and steal the last Final ticket.
Naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche was in the starring role in this pivotal win for the hosts, posting a sublime double-double to lead his club past the Iranians. Fellow import Darius Adams also impressed, scoring 20 points to go along with 6 assists and 3 rebounds. Mugedaer Xirelijiang and Makan Kelanbaike both came up big, too, hitting crucial shots in the fourth quarter and ending up with 11 and 10 points respectively.
Petrochimi squandered a golden chance in this game and failed to secure a rematch with Lebanon’s Al Riyadi, which beat them in the group stage. The Iranians were paced by Behnam Yakhchali and James White, each of whom scored 26 points, while Gerald Robinson missed more than he made as he tallied just 12 points.
Turning Point: China entered the final frame trailing by 4, 73-69, but the hosts, led by Blatche and Xirelijiang, outscored Petrochimi, 14-5, in the first 6 minutes of the fourth quarter to lead, 83-78. That permanently turned the tables on the Iranians and reversed the fortunes of the match. Kelanbaike and Blatche would make back-to-back baskets for China to further extend their lead and eventually put the game out of reach for the Iranians.
Stats Don't Lie: Bench production played a significant role in this encounter. Led by Mugedaer Xirelijiang and Zhou Qi, China Kashgar’s reserves outscored their Petrochimi counterparts, 25-11. Coach Li Qiuping’s second unit provided the spark and lift that the hosts needed to thwart the Iranians’ hopes of annexing their sixth Champions Cup crown.
Game Hero: Andray Blatche just stamped his class all over the floor for China Kashgar. The 2.11m former NBA player unloaded a tournament-high 27 points on 11-of-18 field goal shooting as the Chinese made their first Champions Cup Final since 1999 when they were represented by Liaoning. Blatche added 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal to his name in the victory.
The Bottom Line: For the second straight game, China Kashgar have had to scramble in the fourth quarter to eke out a win. The tough times will probably continue tomorrow as they take on the only other unbeaten team in the tournament, Al Riyadi. The Lebanese have been relentless, though, and the Chinese can ill-afford to play from behind again. This was a tough loss to take for Petrochimi as they became the first Iranian club to miss the Champions Cup Final since 2006.