Shabab Al Ahli-Dubai secure Gulf's final ticket to WASL Final 8
DUBAI (United Arab Emirates) - Shabab Al Ahli-Dubai secured their ticket to the WASL Final 8 by giving Al Hilal the boot, 88-76, in the Gulf League's Third-Place Game, Monday night at the Sheikh Saeed Bin Maktoum Sports Hall in Dubai.
The home team pulled away for good in the closing minutes behind Nick Minnerath and Hamed Lateef, much to the delight of their faithful as they qualified for the biggest stage after going through rough times during the season.
With this, the reigning three-time UAE National League champions have completed the cast of Gulf teams bound for the Final 8 in June. Manama and the undefeated Kuwait Club booked the first two by reaching the Gulf Final.
Game heroes: Minnerath reset his season-high to 34 points on 56-percent shooting from the field, together with 9 rebounds to lead Shabab Al Ahli -- deservingly earning STEP AHEAD Player of the Game honors.
Lateef, who's been a revelation for the team in this Final Phase, produced 18 points, Mohammad Alajmani continued his fine play as well with 15 points.
Brandon Triche supplied 11 markers, 5 boards, and 5 assists in the win.
Turning point: Shabab Al Ahli were actually in the lead for almost the entire game but it wasn't until the fourth quarter where they would break away.
Lateef scored five straight points, and Minnerath would supply the tailend of an 8-0 run towards the 75-61 lead approaching the last six minutes.
They would never let up since, and even led by as many as 18 points thrice.
Stats don't lie: Shabab Al Ahli shot 54-percent from the field, thanks mainly to their 21 assists. They also took advantage of Al Hilal's 16 turnovers, turning it to 14 points
They said: "Winning the third spot is better than being fourth. Plus, we qualify for Final 8, and we kept Shabab Al Ahli club at a high level within the region." - Zoran Zupcevic, Head Coach, Shabab Al Ahli-Dubai
"I'm extremely proud of the guys. But it's nothing new to us. We've dealt with the same thing last season. Last year we were able to pull through, winning a tough championship in the league with a lot of injuries and things like that. It's nothing new to us. We have guys who stepped up and got it done." - Nick Minnerath, Shabab Al Ahli-Dubai
"It hurts. It hurts. But you gotta give credit to Shabab Al Ahli. They outplayed us. We have no excuse for the game we played today. We came in here with no ambition, no heart. We started off the game soft, and that's how it finished the season, unfortunately." - Clint Chapman, Al Hilal