Unbeaten Al Riyadi and China Kashgar clash in Champions Cup Final
CHENZHOU (FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2016) - The final day of the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2016 in Chenzhou, China is upon us, and only two teams are left standing to be crowned best club team in Asia. Fittingly, these are the only two undefeated teams remaining in the competition — Lebanon’s Al Riyadi and hosts China Kashgar.
Riyadi have been the most dominant team of the entire tournament so far, beating teams by an average of 20.3 points. The only time they looked shaky was early on against Iran’s Petrochimi, where they trailed by as many as 13 points before mounting a furious comeback in the second half to win by 11. Since then, they have been indomitable, blasting Barsy Atyrau in the Quarter-Finals, 88-69, before dominating Al Ahli yesterday, 107-79.
They will, however, face a China team that is bigger that any other foe they’ve encountered. That means much pressure will be on the shoulders of frontcourt players Ali Haidar and Alade Aminu to contain the hosts’ towering bigs. The scoring load, though, will be carried by the trio of import Dewarwick Spencer, living legend Fadi El Khatib and rising star Wael Arakji.
As for China Kashgar, coach Li Qiupinh should feel a bit lucky that they have reached this far. They didn’t look themselves when they survived an overachieving Al Rayyan in overtime in the Quarter-Finals, 95-84, and they played from behind most of the way against Petrochimi last night before escaping with a 90-86 win. In short, China have been unimpressive in their last two contests, and they will need to muster their former strength against a team as explosive and focused as Al Riyadi.
Still, China Kashgar’s close calls do not diminish the fact that they remain a team to be reckoned with. Their twin tower combo of Andray Blatche and Zhou Qi are as imposing as ever, while second import Darius Adams has a knack for hitting big shots in crucial moments. The Lebanese should also not overlook the national pool members on China Kashgar’s roster — Li Gen, Makan Kelanbaike and Mugedaer Xirelijiang — all of whom can catch fire at the drop of a hat and make opposing defenders pay.
By all intents and purposes, the first FIBA Asia Champions Cup Final since 2013 should be filled with a ton of excitement. With Petrochimi now officially dethroned, the championship trophy is sure to land in a new country, and both Lebanon and China have equal desire and hunger to make it theirs.