MANILA, Philippines (22nd FIBA Asia Champions Cup): Al Riyadi Beirut held their own in crunch moments toppling twice defending champions Mahram 91-82 en route to winning their first FIBA Asia Champions Cup gold medal in the cauldronesque PhilSports Arena on Sunday.
Fadi El Khatib (pic above) celebrated his fourth FIBA Asia Champions Cup gold medal – the first in seven years, the last time any Lebanese team won the gold was when Sagesse won it in 2004 – with a mammoth tournament-high 41 points, thus ending an Iranian team’s hold on the title for the last four years.
“Ooooh!” exclaimed El Khatib.
“I can’t express my feelings man,” he added.
“Coming back from the locker room during the half-time, I knew it inside me that I wil do it,” El Khatib, who scored 29 points in the second half.
El Khatib opened the fourth quarter – after an equally matched and passionately fought three quarters – with a blinder that set the tone for Riyadi’s march.
Jean Abd El Nour, Riyadi’s talisman this season took over thereafter with back-to-back sizzlers to perch Riyadi firmly ahead. El Nour went on to score 12 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter.
Ismail Ahmad had a double double scoring 11 points and 15 rebounds.
Samad Nikkhah Bahrami led Mahram’s scoring with 28 points, but 25 of them came in the first three quarters. That in nutshell told the tale of Riyadi’s dominance in the fourth quarter.
Bahrami fouled out in the dying moments, but before that Mahram’s key center Samb Cheikh had been ejected with five fouls.
Riyadi’s early flurry made all the difference in the final analysis in getting Fouad Abouchakra his first FIBA Asia Champions Cup gold medal.
“I have it on my CV finally,” before rushing to join the team on the podium.
“We lost to the better team on the floor. There’s nothing more to it,” said Bahrami.
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia
Photo: Milad Payami / FIBA Asia