13 November, 2023
08 May, 2024
23 Cleanthony Robert Early (SAG)
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More minutes for Gibson-Early tandem the target for Sagesse

ZOUK MIKAEL (Lebanon) - Sagesse head coach Jad El Hajj already has one adjustment in mind heading into Game 2 of their FIBA WASL-West Asia League Semi-Final bout versus Al Riyadi.

The veteran mentor and his staff are now looking to find ways on how to utilize Jonathan Gibson and Cleanthony Early together, which was something that they couldn't do in their best-of-3 series opener Wednesday mainly due to size issues of their personnel.

"It's great to have them together in our team. Unfortunately, we cannot put them together on the court," he lamented during the postgame press conference of their narrow 95-92 defeat at the hands of the defending sub-zone champions at the Stade Nouhad Nawfal.

"We have short size among local players, so we always have to put Deng [Acuoth] and use one of them. Hopefully we'll manage it next time, [where] we can put more minutes together."

Although they hardly saw action together on the hardwood, the former NBA players showed how promising they could be as Sagesse's potential new 1-2 punch.

Gibson top-scored for the Green Castle with 27 points on 6-of-11 shooting from deep. He already had 14 points on four triples in the first half, wherein he joined hands with veteran forward Ahmad Ibrahim to lead their side to a 10-point lead in the second period.


The 36-year-old point guard was crucial as well in Sagesse's late-game comeback bid, wherein they inched to within just three points after being down 10 twice inside the last 5:03.

The squad was just a three-pointer away from sending the game into overtime but Gibson's attempt, where he tried to bounced his trey off the glass, missed as time expired.

Early, on the other hand, had a solid FIBA WASL debut as he finished with 16 points on 6-of-11 field goal shooting, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and a block in 18 minutes off the bench.

El Hajj and Co. could only imagine how good these two could be if they can play longer alongside each other, which is their plan for Game 2 next Wednesday when the series shifts to Sagesse's own stomping grounds at the Ghazir Club Stadium.

"They are great players. They can score," said the Lebanese men's team head coach. "But as you know also, we have to stay aggressive and focused on defense."

But aside from that, what El Hajj aims to tweak as well is for his wards to stick with their defensive-oriented approach and avoid falling into the kind of game Al Riyadi plays.

"They took us to the game that they like, which is an offensive game. They scored 95," he offered. "As everybody knows, we are a defensive team. Also in the second half, we did 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 brought the momentum that they like which was a quick game - we miss, they run, they score. Hopefully, we avoid the mistakes we made."