25 May, 2024
01 June
Game Report
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Beirut Derby again as Al Riyadi, Sagesse fight for FIBA WASL crown

DOHA (Qatar) - Sagesse played the spoiler's role and crushed the hopes of Kuwait Club, 76-72, to reach the FIBA West Asia Super League (WASL) 2024 Final, Friday night.

Much of the attention were on the reigning two-time Gulf League champions if they could return to the Big Dance for a chance to rewrite their story after last season's heartbreak to Manama, but it was the Lebanese side that barged into the title picture instead.

Nick Rakocevic and Jonathan Gibson took turns in leading their strong finish, leaving their fans that watched live at the Lusail Multipurpose Hall in a frenzy as they witnessed their team go far into the tournament from being a last-minute replacement to Dynamo Club.

With the triumph, Sagesse have forged a meeting with Al Riyadi in the winner-take-all Final set on Saturday at 18:00 local time in yet another chapter of the storied Beirut Derby.

Game heroes: Rakocevic played his best game of the tilt to date as he finished with 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the floor and 11 rebounds, together with 3 assists, a steal, and a block each for an efficiency of 29 to earn STEP AHEAD Player of the Game honors.

Gibson made 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Ahmad Ibrahim produced 17 points as well behind an efficient 8-of-11 clip from the field, alongside 5 rebounds.


Turning point: The gap was too close for comfort for Sagesse approaching the last four minutes until Rakocevic took matters into his own hands, nailing his only trey of the game before scoring off a layup to push their lead to 68-60 with 3:20 remaining.

But Kuwait Club just wouldn't go down, with Joe Young and Hamad Hasan nailing a triple each to cut the deficit to just a field goal, 74-72, with 10.6 seconds on the clock.

Sagesse would never make them go any closer, though, with Gibson icing the game by coolly knocking down both of his free throws with exactly 10 seconds left to play.

Stats don't lie: The upcoming Sagesse-Al Riyadi title bout will be the 13th time that the proud clubs will meet one another in the 2023-24 basketball season.

They said: "It's a great feeling to be in the Final. We spoke to the guys that it's a knockout game, and we know them very well. We scouted them, we watched them in the first round. They have great foreigners. We controlled them ... and this is what we want, to force their locals to take more decisions and attempts. Respect for all my guys, they took it personally individually, they played with their hearts out on the court." - Jad El Hajj, Head Coach, Sagesse

"I thought we did really good, you know, the team. They fought hard and as Coach said, all the guys took it personally. Tomorrow is a game that we wanted. We played against Riyadi in the Lebanese championship, and they beat us badly. We felt like we owe 'em, so tomorrow it's gonna be our opportunity to show it." - Nick Rakocevic, Sagesse

"We couldn't really get into a good rhythm offensively, but we stayed in the game. In the first half we were up even. I think we didn't play our best game. We're hoping that some time in the third or fourth quarter, we get going. It was a close game all the way. We had some crucial foul trouble from some important players - Omran, Hamad ... Sagesse played tough. I would say they deserve it." - Peter Schomers, Head Coach, Kuwait Club

"Going to the Final was our goal. We didn't come here just to come here. We came here to win the whole thing. Not being able to go to the Final... but at the same time, we still got a game to win tomorrow. We can't be too upset about this. We have to have a short memory, like what Coach said in the locker room. Tomorrow, we just come out and fight like our life depended on it." - Cady Lalanne, Kuwait Club