El Jaish quelled Al Arabi’s resurgence in the pay-off period and escaped with a 75-71 victory while Al Gharafa pummeled Al Rayyan throughout to score a 73-64 win last night to get ahead 1-0 in their best-of-five semi-final battles in the Heir Apparent Cup being played at the Al Gharafa Indoor Arena.
Fadi Abilmona sealed the win for Army from the stripe, canning two gift shots off a deliberate foul called on Al Arabi with four seconds left in the game following a lost possession by the defending champions that spelled the final outcome of Game 1 between the squads.
Army closed the third leading 59-53 and went on a rampage early in the fourth behind Ali Turki’s outside sniping to pull away, 68-53, with 6:31seconds remaining in the match.
Al Arabi would however come out of a referee’s ceasefire, caused by an altercation between Antoine Broxsie and Aleoni Ndoye, to fashion out a 15-2 uprising to threaten the white shirts at 68-70, going into the last two minutes of the game.
Coach Milan Minic drew 30 points from his starters’ long bombs and got 22 points off the bench to mastermind the win.
Al Rayyan took the lead early in the match but Al Gharafa found their bearing in the last minutes of the first period to erase the deficit and finish with a 22-10 overwhelming advantage.
The high-leaping Suleiman Braimoh’s two consecutive lay-ins pushed Rayyan a bit closer at 14-22 but Awako Emanuel and Victor Hakim Thomas would then combine in an 8-2 Gharafa offensive to give the hosts a 30-16 cushion midway in the second period.
Rayyan then went to Jerome Davidson in the ensuing possessions and while the lanky centre responded with two consecutive baskets, the blue shirts defended well to nurse their lead and hang on to a double digit advantage, 33-22, at halftime.
Yaseen Mousa steered his team’s 9-4 run coming from the break (37-31) but Emanuel and Thomas sped up the tempo and countered with a 6-2 spurt to keep it 43-33, halfway in the third quarter.
Braimoh and Emanuel would then engage in a fiery exchange of baskets in the next five minutes, and with Earl Calvin Cage and Omondi Robin Amoke helping the latter out, Gharafa stayed with the upperhand, 55-44, going into the final period.
Coach Koussay Hatem held off Rayyan’s attempt to comeback in the fourth quarter and marched away with the lopsided 73-64 victory for his club.
Today’s Games: Al Gharafa Indoor Hall 5:00pm: Rayyan vs Gharafa; 7:00pm: Arabi vs El Jaish.