Simple plan of Gorgan against Sagesse; 'Take the crowd out of it'
GHAZIR (Lebanon) - It's never easy battling a Lebanese team on their home floor.
Shahrdary Gorgan are all aware of that, and the team experienced as much all over again when it went to the Ghazir Club Stadium to meet Sagesse for the FIBA WASL-West Asia League opener.
Even before tipoff, the visiting ball club from Iran were truly at a disadvantage support-wise as the partisan crowd cheered - while some jeered - to show support to their own team.
But then, it's no longer foreign to them, and they have an antidote of sorts to it.
"We kinda knew that if we started the game well, we're gonna take the crowd out of it," said star forward Arsalan Kazemi, who's one of the newest additions to the team.
They did just that.
Gorgan jumped to an 18-8 start into the game and finished the first quarter with an 11-point lead, proving to be the start of a lopsided affair that saw them lead by as many as 22.
The Season 1 West Asia League runners-up eventually won, 86-74, for a successful start to their Season 2 campaign while crushing Sagesse's hopes of a triumphant FIBA WASL debut.
Kazemi himself was a major reason behind the conquest. He finished with 8 points and a game-high 18 rebounds, which ties the third-highest total in a FIBA WASL game.
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"That's what we did," said the 33-year-old, who also had 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block in almost 31 minutes of play on the way to a game-high efficiency rating of 32..
"We started pretty strong and I think that led us to the end and we were able to pull it off."
Serving as the cherry on top of Wednesday's victory - which had also enabled Gorgan to take the early lead in Group A (1-0) - was the mini reunion he had with his 'brother.'
Long-time pal Ahmad Ibrahim, that is.
"It was a tough game for us. I know Sagesse is gonna be a tough game because my brother, Ahmad Ibrahim, plays for this team," he said of his Rice University teammate.
But as early as now, Kazemi is already bracing for Sagesse's fightback when they meet one another again on January 11 at their home floor at the Azadi Basketball Hall.
"This is not over," said the veteran internationalist. "They're gonna come to Tehran and play and hopefully, they're gonna come and see our fans as well."