Semis within reach as no-quit ZobAhan complete 21-point comeback in OT classic
TEHRAN (Iran) - ZobAhan showcased their no-quit mentality once more, rallying back from 21 down to frustrate Al Naft in overtime, 109-102, to put one foot into the WASL-West Asia Semi-Finals, Wednesday night at the Azadi Basketball Hall.
Amir Gholizadeh broke the 97-all deadlock through a trifecta with 2:14 left to play, before Arman Zangeneh and Sajjad Mashayekhi supplied the key baskets that took the fight out of the visitors as they went on to complete the epic comeback.
The Iranian side now lead the best-of-3 Qualification to Semi-Finals series at 1-0, and could close it out in Game 2 next Wednesday at the Al Shaeb Hall in Baghdad.
Game heroes: Gholizadeh led the way with 31 points -- almost tying his Group Phase total across three games (33) -- on 55-percent field goal shooting, including a 7-of-13 clip from deep. He also had 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals in 41 minutes.
Mashayekhi flirted with a double-double as he came through with 29 points and 8 assists, together with 5 rebounds and a steal.
Zangeneh, on the other hand, was just a rebound shy of tallying WASL's first-ever 20-20 game as he finished with 23 markers and 19 boards.
ZobAhan's Big 3 overshadowed the star troika of the other team in Edgar Sosa, Karrar Hamzah, and Antwaine Wiggins, which combined for 84 points as they tried to get Al Naft out of a harrowing losing skid that has now extended to four.
STEP AHEAD Player of the Game: Zangeneh earned the fans' nod for STEP AHEAD Player of the Game honors as he received 23-percent of the online votes.
Turning point: Game appeared to have already gotten out of hand when ZobAhan entered the fourth quarter trailing by 15, but showed otherwise as they unloaded a 22-6 run for an 88-87 lead with 1:59 to go, setting up the thrilling finale.
They actually trailed by three with 18.0 seconds remaining in the period following Hamzah's perfect trip to the line but Mohammadreza Akbari nailed a high-arching trey to tie it up at 93-all with 9.0 ticks left, eventually sending it to OT.
Stats don't lie: Taking care of the ball proved to be a main issue for Al Naft as they committed 22, which ZobAhan turned to 22 points.
The hosts exemplified effort, too. They collected 25 of their 51 rebounds on offense, and capitalized on second chances better by scoring 31 off those.
They said: "Nothing happened because we have to play another tough game in Baghdad. We are up 1-nil, but nothing special happened. We have to win another game and it's gonna be a very, very tough game." Arman Zangeneh, ZobAhan
"It was a very competitive game. Both teams shot very well and played hard on both ends. But at the end of the game, they hit more shots in the end. That's why they got the result that they had." - Antwaine Wiggins, Al Naft