13 November, 2023
08 May, 2024
Game Report
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Al Riyadi blow out Sagesse, set up West Asia Final rematch with Gorgan

ZOUK MIKAEL (Lebanon) - Al Riyadi authored an anticlimactic conclusion to the FIBA WASL chapter of their long-standing rivalry with Sagesse following an 86-65 victory to seal a return trip to the West Asia League Final, Wednesday night at the Stade Nouhad Nawfal.

The defending sub-zone champions overcame a tepid start before breaking the game open in the third quarter much to the delight of their faithful that filled up the venue, bucking the trend after the Semi-Final series' first two games were decided by only three points.

With the blowout victory, the Yellow Castle has forged a rematch with Shahrdary Gorgan in the best-of-3 championship affair set to commence next week.

Al Riyadi will definitely try to keep their mastery of the reigning three-time Iranian champions but the crew will be facing a different team from last season. Gorgan finished the Group Phase unbeaten and returned to the Final that way after beating Al Shorta in the Semis.

Game heroes: Elmedin Kikanovic top-scored for the home team with 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field and 6 rebounds to net an efficiency of 23.

Lead playmaker Wael Arakji came through with 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists on his way to earning yet another STEP AHEAD Player of the Game citation.

Karim Zeinoun made 14 points, spiked by a pair of triples. Manny Harris flirted with a double-double with 12 points and 8 rebounds, while Hayk Gyokchan added 10 as the trio played key roles in helping Al Riyadi wake up from an uncharacteristic 0-10 start into the game.

New pick-up Thon Maker made his presence felt with 8 points and 11 rebounds, together with 2 assists, a steal, and a block in 20 minutes off the bench, giving Al Riyadi another solid piece that should help a great deal in their attempt at winning it all this season.


Turning point: Karim Zeinoun scored Al Riyadi's first basket of the game at the 7:12-mark of the first quarter and shortly after, their engine started to hum as they put together a strong 19-5 assault to overtake their foes and head into the next period ahead by four.

They would be in the driver's seat the rest of the way. Al Riyadi would even lead by as many as 22 points, 83-61, following Ali Mansour's perfect trip to the line with 1:23 left.

Stats don't lie: Turnovers badly hurt Sagesse as they committed 17, which Al Riyadi converted into 20 points. Al Riyadi only had 8 turnovers and dished out 17 assists.

They said: "It was an amazing game for us. We prepared for this game very well, especially defensively. We managed to keep them to 65 points. This team can score a hundred points per game so if we go to the numbers, it's amazing what we did defensively. My players should be proud of themselves. They did an amazing job forcing Sagesse to commit 17 turnovers and manage to control our game. We only had eight turnovers and we played as a team." - Ahmad Farran, head coach, Al Riyadi

"We had a very slow start but we picked it up very quickly. They had 10 quick points in the beginning then we limited them to only five points for the rest of the quarter. We controlled everything. We were able to control the rebounds, we had more assists, we had less turnovers, we made sure their key players such as Cleanthony and Ahmad were out of the game. As a whole, we did a great job." - Wael Arakji, Al Riyadi

"Simply and shortly, the better team won tonight. They were much better than us. We had 17 turnovers. We know when we play away we have to focus more. Now we have to put the game behind us. Next Wednesday I think we'll play the Iraqi team on our court. We have to focus. We have to get that win to make it to the Final 8." - Jad El Hajj, head coach, Sagesse

"Definitely wasn't our best game as a team. Definitely some shots didn't fall. But at the same time, a couple of our guys out there got hurt. But like Coach said we gotta focus on the Wednesday game. This game is behind us. On to the next one." - Jonathan Gibson, Sagesse