Still perfect: Kuwait Club sweep Shabab Al Ahli, set up Gulf Final duel versus Manama
DUBAI (United Arab Emirates) - Kuwait Club aced the tough test handed out by Shabab Al Ahli-Dubai on the road, 110-100, to sweep their way to the WASL-Gulf Final, Tuesday night at the Sheikh Saeed Bin Maktoum Sports Hall.
Cody Lalanne and Marcus Georges-Hunt came through in rough times, leading the visitors' damage control efforts after the home team crawled back from as much as 18 points down and tied the game up at 85 with 6:52 remaining.
Lalanne broke the deadlock with five straight points to give his side the lead for good, before joining hands with Georges-Hunt and the Hasan Bros. for the 11-2 run towards a 110-97 lead approaching the final minute to seal the deal.
That great resolve enabled Kuwait Club to remain perfect -- they're now 8-0 overall -- and earn a spot in the best-of-3 Final, where they'll be taking on Manama.
More importantly, they'll be joining the Bahraini side to the WASL Final 8 in June, meaning two of the three slots from the Gulf have now been occupied.
The remaining Final 8 ticket via Gulf League will be disputed by Shabab Al Ahli-Dubai and Al Hilal in the Third-Place Game. The knockout battle between former groupmates is set on May 8, Monday.
Game heroes: Lalanne reset his season-high to 27 points to lead Kuwait Club, more than enough to earn him STEP AHEAD Player of the Game honors.
Turki Alshemmari came up big with his 18 points, which he all collected from beyond the arc. He already had 12 points in the first half, where he helped his side establish a 54-36 lead with under four minutes to go before the intermission.
Georges-Hunt finished with 16 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, and a game-high 6 steals. Jacob Pullen also had 16 markers off the bench.
Together, they wasted the breakout performance of Hamed Lateef, who produced 27 points to lead Shabab Al Ahli-Dubai in the tough defeat.
Stats don't lie: Both squads were almost even in most statistical categories but turnovers hurt Shabab Al Ahli a lot. A team that commits just 12.6 a game, they committed a total of 19 this time, which Kuwait Club turned into 25 points.
Defense was really key for the visiting side as they also kept Nick Minnerath from his usual scoring ways, limiting the sweet-shooting big man to just 14 points.
They said: "I told the players that the game could've been finished much earlier had we gotten more stops. Me personally, as a coach, I like to finish games with defense. But I'm still very happy with the win. That's the most important thing. Knocked down important shots. I'm happy with the win. I'm happy that we're in the Final. It was a good preparation for the Final." - Peter Schomers, Head Coach, Kuwait Club
"It feels great. The team came out and played hard. We've been working all year since the Arab Cup. We've been working hard, and we've been really competing. Everybody today, they came and play. We had to play hard on defense and the guys, the other team, they played really well. They were making shots and they didn't wanna go away. So we had to lock in, and fight some adversity. We stuck together as a team, Marcus made some stops, and we won the game. But it was a hard-fought game." - Cody Lalanne, Kuwait Club
"In leagues like this, in particular, skill only gets you so far. There's nothing you can do about size. The bottomline is, we're outmanned in that department. We only have so much size. Look at the foul trouble. Kuwait is, like I said before, we respect them the most. They're like the best team, the most complete team from bench to starters. Like I said, talent can only get you so far. Size will carry you." - Nick Minnerath, Shabab Al Ahli-Dubai