13 November, 2023
06 May, 2024
Pantelis Gavriel (MNM)
to read

Linos explains familiarity being the difference in Manama-Kuwait Club Part 3

MANAMA (Bahrain) - The number of times that Manama and Kuwait Club faced each other in the inaugural FIBA West Asia Super League (WASL) season alone could spell the difference as both squads see themselves figuring in yet another battle for gold.

Coach Linos Gavriel believes so, as two of the pan-regional competition's favorites will figure in a Gulf League Final rematch starting on Thursday in the Bahraini capital.

"I believe that it would be kind of different because the experience of competing against each other is there, so probably the preparation of the two teams will focus more on specific details since we have the data, let's say, of facing each other," the champion mentor said.

"With the scouting and the analytics, both teams can prepare better. That's gonna be, probably, the difference from the previous games," he added. "Of course, the level of focus, the energy level, the hustle plays, the 50-50 balls will be important. It's gonna be interesting to see."

Definitely, both squads have plenty of game tapes of their past meetings to review. Manama and Kuwait Club met each other a total of five times back in Season 1, with the former losing four of those - twice in the Group Phase, and then in the sub-zone Final as it ended via sweep.

But all the pain they felt from those defeats were wiped out when Gavriel's charges beat their then-tormentors, 67-59, in the FIBA WASL Final in Dubai to emerge as the tournament's first-ever champions, denying their foes as well of winning a double crown.

"Last season, we had five games. We only won one, they won four. But that one win gave us the FIBA WASL championship," proudly recalled Gavriel.

So, the upcoming Gulf League Final will be the third time that the two teams are vying in a league final, which will be a tiebreaker of sorts as well after splitting the last two games.

Manama are coming into the series as the heavy favorites not just because of their stature as the defending FIBA WASL champions, but being an undefeated bunch as well. They're currently 8-0 this season after sweeping the Group Phase and Muharraq in the Semis.

That, though, is hardly in their minds as they have the utmost respect for Kuwait Club, which are leading nearly every statistical department in the sub-zone which includes being the best three-point shooting team (36.6 percent) to being the top team in blocks (3.4), to name some.

That is why they're all anticipating a tough challenge ahead from a team that's surely seeking vengeance for that heartbreak they suffered on the night of June 17, 2023.

"Being rivals with Kuwait Club puts us in a situation to feel a sense of urgency, since we know how good of a team they are," said Gavriel, who returned to Manama early last year.

"When you know that you're facing a bigger team, a physical team, a well-coached team, a team that is the absolute favorite to win all titles every time in a competition they compete in, it puts you in a situation to try more, right? Even the players know that," he added.

As wary as they are, though, that doesn't make the unit less confident of their chances. They're motivated, really, in the Gulf League Final ahead as Manama know that they have their ever-supportive fans backing them in their quest to attain even more success.

"We're gonna be ready. Because for sure, it's a big motivation for us to play in front of our crowd, which, for me, are the best. I've been around the world and I know they're the best," said Gavriel. "They've helped us win all the titles since I got back here."

"Right now we need them as well to push us, to play against the favorites in Kuwait Club. That's why we are motivated to compete against them," he added.