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Sagesse ''insisted on winning'' to set up trip to Final 8, potential rematch vs Riyadi

GHAZIR (Lebanon) - Bouncing back from a tough loss is always hard.

It's even more difficult when it's a Playoff loss in a series-deciding game to an archnemesis.

"We insisted on winning. That's why we played with high focus... We got our spot now."

 

That's what Sagesse SC had to do and they marched into the Third-Place game of West Asia Super League (WASL) - West Asia. They had used up an amazing amount of effort going to three games against long-time rivals Al Riyadi in the Semi-Finals, pushing it to a decisive Game 3 after an epic overtime win, only to get blown out. So it would have been understandable if they were to be spent physically and emotionally in this game against Al Shorta to decide three-place.

But they knew from the beginning that there was too much at stake to lose focus.

Not only was this a battle for third-place, a spot at the WASL Final 8 was on the line for the victors.

"Of course, this was our target today," said Sagesse head coach, Jad El Hajj of qualifying for the Final 8. "We spoke to the guys in the locker room before we started.

"This was like a knockout game or a final game. The winner will qualify and the loser will go home."

So it was not by just mere chance or that it was just a really good day that resulted in Sagesse getting their biggest win of the season at 50 points - the second biggest margin of victory in WASL - West Asia this year. That they held the largest lead by any team this season at 52 points is also key evidence to point out how determined they were to make it to the Final 8.

"We insisted on winning. That's why we played with high focus. Only 6 turnovers in the game. We got our spot now. We have four weeks to prepare for the Final 8. From there, we take it game by game and we see where we will finish."

Should Sagesse be able to conjure another outstanding performance as they did against Al Shorta in this recent game, where they knocked down a WASL - West Asia record of 20 three-pointers, chances are they will be able to make a deep run in the Final 8 and finish high in the Final Standings.

Of course, El Hajj and the team are already eyeing a potential Final 8 revenge matchup that is likely to happen sooner if not later now that they've confirm their seat in the event.

Keep your schedules open for another round of one of the most intense rivalries in Asian basketball, Sagesse vs Al Riyadi.

"I believe we’re going to play against Al Riyadi as I saw the schedule," said El Hajj, explaining that the rematch might come as early as the Group Phase of the Final 8, depending on Al Riyadi's results in the West Asia Finals.

"I believe Riyadi can finish first, so [it's likely] we’re going to face [at least] one more time."

It seems that Riyadi will be favorites for the WASL - West Asia Finals, garnering compliments from head coaches of both sides in this Third-Place Game, singling them out as the team to beat.

But whoever comes out of the Finals as the last team standing, whether it is Riyadi or Gorgan, and whenever these teams are scheduled to face Sagesse, know that the "Green Castle" and standout forward Karim Ezzedine will be ready to rumble.

"Honestly, we prepare for every game accordingly and we treat every game the same - with hunger and with passion," said Ezzedine. "Every game we learn but now we’re trying to capitalize and come up with every win that we can and that comes with training hard day by day and [by playing] games like these, shooting well from three and building from this."

FIBA