Play-Off Switch On: WASL Semis opener brought the best out of these stars. Take a look
BEIRUT (Lebanon) - Stars really do shine brighter when the stage gets bigger and the WASL Semi-Finals' opening week was further proof of that.
Four teams have gotten closer to the Big Dance and that's thanks to the sterling outings these men turned in -- from one who came alive in the best of times, to a debut to remember, and to the usual suspects who delivered time and again.
We take another look at some of the best performances of the week that was, which, by the way, have also helped their teams move nearer to a Final 8 seat.
'MOSTI' COMES ALIVE
Mustafa Rashed saw his minutes with Manama dwindle when the league came back to action last March, apparently due to the arrival of Lamont Jones as 'Momo,' as he's fondly called, became the team's lead point guard.
From playing almost 25 minutes in their first four games, the 21-year-old would just sniff the court for 8.8 minutes in the latter part of the Group Phase all the way to their best-of-3 Qualification to Semi-Finals series versus Kazma.
Worse, the feisty guard got into a scoreless stretch -- from their last GP game versus Al Sadd, and in all their QSF meetings with Kazma.
All that, however, changed come their semis opener versus Al Hilal. Rashed was utilized by Coach Pantelis Gavriel for 21 minutes, and he made sure to repay that trust by turning in 21 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists.
Manama won in overtime, 82-78, to move one step closer from the WASL-Gulf Final. And definitely a big part of it was Rashed, who helped Jones and Mohammed Hamooda in the extra period to secure the victory.
KUWAIT CLUB'S 1-2-3 COMBO
Last Tuesday was Kuwait Club's first WASL game in weeks being one of the early Semi-Finals entrants, but they remained as sharp as ever on the way to taking down Shabab Al Ahli-Dubai by way of an 87-71 victory.
Bannering the triumph were big man Cody Lalanne and the Hasan Bros., which have been a revelation in this ongoing Final Phase.
Lalanne posted a season-high 25 points on 10-of-16 field goal shooting, on top of 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks.
Hamad, on the other hand, flirted with a triple-double as he posted 22 points, 8 rebounds, and 10 assists for a game-high 32 efficiency rating. His younger bro Mohammad added 11 markers, spiked by a trio of triples.
Together, Lalanne and the Hasans spearheaded Kuwait Club's fiery 15-0 run in the fourth quarter towards a 77-56 lead approaching the last seven minutes of the match -- a run more than enough to overwhelm their depleted foes.
AL RIYADI'S "MISSING PIECE"
It just so happened that Duop Reath's first-ever game with Al Riyadi took place in the WASL-West Asia Semi-Finals opener but the pressure-packed affair proved to be a stage for the young center to show how important he could be for his new club.
Thrusted into the starting lineup right away, the 26-year-old poured 24 points -- 16 in the first half -- alongside 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks for an efficiency rating of 27.0 in 21 minutes to help his side rout Beirut Club, 104-77.
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Coach Ahmad Farran has become even more excited with what the future holds for Riyadi especially with a presence like Reath, who was part of the Australia Boomers team that captured bronze in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
"He's the missing piece in Riyadi's lineup so I'm very happy to have him," said the veteran bench tactician, who's facing a good problem, so to speak, in handling a team that already has Wael Arakji, Amir Saoud, and Hayk Gyokchyan, to name a few.
PETTY, YAKHCHALI AT IT AGAIN
Gorgan exemplified steadiness by weathering ZobAhan's fourth-quarter storm on the way to the 91-72 victory to put one foot into the West Asia League Final.
But really, it was in the second quarter where the reigning Iranian Super League champs turned the game around in their favor, with stars Behnam Yakhchali and Perry Petty -- who's become a hometown favorite -- leading the way.
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There, Gorgan unloaded 30 points while holding their counterparts to just a measly 8 points en route to a commanding 50-30 lead at the halftime break.
Over half of their output in the said period came from the two, as they combined for 16 points, much to the disappointment of the opposition.
Yakhchali eventually finished with 25 points to lead all scorers together with 5 rebounds, while Petty supplied 21 markers and 9 boards.