19 December, 2022
25 May, 2023
26 Duop Thomas Reath (RIY)
Game Report
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Al Riyadi nearing WASL-West Asia title after thwarting Gorgan on the road

TEHRAN (Iran)  - Al Riyadi moved within reach of the WASL-West Asia championship after surviving the furious second-half fightback of budding rivals Gorgan, 87-79, Thursday night at the Azadi Basketball Hall in Tehran.

Wael Arakji struck the dagger through a tough fallaway jumper for an 81-74 lead with 52.0 seconds left to play, putting away the home team for good after rallying from as much as 15 down and taking a 68-66 lead early in the final chapter.

The star guard's shot punctuated the 15-6 response of the Lebanese powerhouse, which came about thanks also to the efforts of Duop Reath and Kevin Murphy.

Al Riyadi have now taken the 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 affair, and could wrap it up at home on Wednesday, 17 May, at the Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Beirut.

Game heroes: Reath powered Al Riyadi with a season-high 34 points --spiked by a quartet of 3-pointers -- and 10 rebounds in over 38 minutes of play, all enough for him to earn STEP AHEAD Player of the Game honors.

Arakji finished with 22 points, half of which he made in the first half. The 2022 FIBA Asia Cup MVP also chalked up 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal.

Murphy, meanwhile, added 14 markers, managing to come up with such figures even after going for just 4-of-18 from the floor in his worst shooting night to date.

Turning point: Behnam Yakhchali caught fire in the third by pouring 12 of his 20 points there and Gorgan would find themselves on the comeback trail, with Perry Petty giving them the lead twice in the deciding chapter.

His trey gave them a 71-70 lead with 4:40 remaining, but Reath would answer back with his own triple to put Al Riyadi back up by a field goal.

It would be all the visitors from then on, with Arakji and Murphy coming through to put together the finishing kick they badly needed to take the crucial W.

They said: "It was our ambition to take the lead 1-0. Now it's gonna be hard for us to lose at home. But again, Gorgan is a big team. Also, they're still in the competition. If we don't focus, and prepare for the game very well, they can come and win in Beirut and bring us to a Game Three. But we will make sure it's not gonna happen. It's not gonna be easy playing in Beirut in front of our fans. It's gonna be hard for Gorgan to win and we will make sure to win it hard." - Ahmad El Farran, Head Coach, Al Riyadi.

"Of course. This is the game of basketball. It's like a roller-coaster. Sometimes you go up, sometimes you go down. You need to stay focus, stay locked in, and stay patient. That's what we did. We had a huge lead at the beginning then Gorgan came back and had a two-point lead, but there was a lot of time. There was six minutes left. We stayed patient. We knew how to attack Gorgan's big guys, and we finished the game." - Wael Arakji, Al Riyadi

"Each game has its own chance for both teams and the players have enough experience to play [in an] away [game] and get the result. I think that we will play much, much better than before." - Mehran Hatami, Head Coach, Gorgan

"We tried different kinds of defenses -- sometimes we went to a matchup zone; sometimes we played man-to-man; and different kinds of of pick-and-roll coverages. I think we did a great job. But we couldn't find an answer for No. 26 (Reath). That was the key." - Mohammad Jamshidi, Gorgan