13 November, 2023
08 May, 2024
16 Wael Arakji (RIY), 9 Ahmad Ibrahim (SAG)
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Al Riyadi, Sagesse dispute last ticket to West Asia Final

BEIRUT (Lebanon) - Al Riyadi and Sagesse will go at it one last time for the remaining ticket to the FIBA WASL-West Asia League Season 2 Final, Wednesday night.

Game time is set at 21:45 at the Stade Nouhad Nawfal in Zouk Mikael, a battleground expected to be filled to the roof once more as the long-time Lebanese rivals figure in a do-or-die encounter for the right to face Shahrdary Gorgan for the title next week.

It's a venue that the Yellow Castle loves to play in, having won three of their first five games of the season there that included Game 1 of the best-of-3 Semis last March 27.

But the reigning West Asia League champions know that homecourt edge may no longer be enough, especially after the once-unsolvable Al Riyadi puzzle got figured out by Sagesse.

That happened in Game 2 last April 3 at a jam-packed Ghazir Club Stadium, where the green-and-white unit forced overtime and eventually took the 109-106 victory to prevent being swept and, more importantly, keep their title aspirations alive.


Plenty of heroes stepped up in that victory, with Cleanthony Early starring with a 30-20 outing as he helped out Omar Jamaleddine and Karim Ezzedine in the extra period to complete the comeback after facing a 95-88 deficit with 69 seconds left in regulation.

Both games were decided by only three points and Al Riyadi head coach Ahmad Farran said that grind-out affairs will be the theme of this series, and they expect nothing less in Game 3.

"This is what the series is going to be. We went very, very, very close to winning the game," the champion bench tactician offered. "But it's OK. We will play again on the 17th of April at home so hopefully it will be a better game for us, and we can finish it."

His counterpart in Jad El Hajj anticipates as much, too, but he and Sagesse have found renewed hope that they can pull off the upset after stealing Game 2 in their home floor.

"We're gonna go to their gym, and we know it's going to be a full house. It can be very tough. But now, we believe more," said the Lebanese men's team head coach.

After 14 days, both squads are coming in fresher especially Al Riyadi, which did not have Wael Arakji at max health as he only got discharged from the hospital hours before Game 2.

Despite his condition, the star guard still willed his team with 28 points although that, unfortunately, wasn't enough to lead Al Riyadi to a sweep. But after getting some needed rest and recovery, he'd surely be coming into the do-or-die tiff at a hundred percent.

Much of the attention will be on the reigning FIBA Asia Cup MVP again but he'd be getting some valuable help. The club recently signed Australia Boomer Thon Maker, who's making his way back to FIBA WASL after reinforcing Kuwait Club in the inaugural Final 8.


Without a doubt, he's out to win some gold in the league after falling short in his first foray but he will have to go through Sagesse first, where an intriguing matchup against Early and some of their rivals' frontcourt pieces in Ahmad Ibrahim and Ezzedine awaits him.

It could be tough to contain an Arakji-Maker 1-2 punch but the Green Castle aren't rolling down easily, with the veteran Jonathan Gibson expected to lead the charge again alongside Early as Hajj and Co. have now figured out how to maximize the two together.