13 November, 2023
08 May, 2024
7 Karim Zeinoun (RIY)
Game Report
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Al Riyadi survive Sagesse in thriller, near West Asia League Final

ZOUK MIKAEL (Lebanon) - Al Riyadi moved a win away from returning to the FIBA WASL-West Asia League Final following a 95-92 win over Sagesse in a nail-biting Semis opener witnessed by about 8,000 fans at the Stade Nouhad Nawfal, Wednesday night.

The defending sub-zone champions overcame an early double-digit deficit and appeared to have taken full control of the game when they led by a decade with under four minutes left to play, but needed some luck in the endgame to escape their long-time rivals.

Manny Harris split his charities with 4.4 seconds left to play, but Al Riyadi only heaved a sigh of relief when Jonathan Gibson missed the potential game-tying three as time expired.

It should be an interesting Game 2 next Wednesday, April 3, with the series heading into the Green Castle's own stomping grounds at the Ghazir Club Stadium.

Game heroes: Elmedin Kikanovic led Al Riyadi with 24 points and 13 rebounds, netting an efficiency of 30 as he also had an assist, a steal, and a block each for a full line.

Two-way specialist Karim Zeinoun matched his season-high with 18 points spiked by five three-pointers, together with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals.

Amir Saoud and Wael Arakji supplied 14 points apiece as the backcourt tandem helped bring Al Riyadi back into the game after being down by 10 during the second quarter. Arakji added 6 rebounds and 6 assists to his name while Saoud had 4 rebounds and 6 dimes as well.

Turning point: After focusing on defense in the first half, Zeinoun became more assertive in the third quarter, nailing two treys to power a 10-0 run that gave Al Riyadi the 59-56 lead.

The crew would remain ahead the rest of the way, with their lead stretching to as wide as 10 points twice inside the game's last 5:03 behind Arakji and Manny Harris.

Stats don't lie: By dishing 28 dimes in the triumph, Al Riyadi now own the top four records for most assists by a team in a FIBA WASL-West Asia League game this season.

They said: "Very happy with the win. We started very well in this series. We believed from the first moment that our plan was gonna work. We did and in the first half we were loose a little bit defensively, they managed to score a lot of points from 1-on-1, they scored crazy shots, and they shot with a huge percentage. I believe they dropped at the end of the game. Also, we shot well. But overall the game was good for us. We managed to score 95 points. But I believe we could do better defensively. But the turning point was in the third quarter, when we started to make stops and we closed the gap from six points to taking the lead. Thank God we managed to win. Now this game is behind us." - Ahmad Farran, Head Coach, Al Riyadi

"Like Coach said it was a tough game in the beginning, one on one we were very loose, hmad was having his way, Gibson had his shots. But at halftime just like Coach said we adjusted, and I think we stepped up better defensively, and we were executing on the offensive side. They scored a very high percentage in the first half but we knew that they're not gonna continue like this the whole game so we focused on just getting stops and trying to score offensively, and thank God we came out with the win." - Karim Zeinoun, Al Riyadi

"They took us to the game that they like, which is an offensive game. They scored 95. As everybody knows, we are a defensive team. In the second half we made a lot of turnovers. Terrible first five minutes. We lost it by I think 12 points. They had 28 assists. They shared the ball very well. We have to avoid many mistakes for the next game especially defensively. They took us to the momentum that they like which was a quick game -- we miss, they run, they score. Hopefully we avoid the mistakes we made." - Jad El Hajj, Head Coach, Sagesse