By Yash Mudgal/Doha
The battle lines have been drawn once again. The curtain comes down on the hectic basketball season in Qatar tomorrow when Al Arabi meet Al Wakrah in the final of the prestigious HH The Emir Cup tournament at the Al Gharafa Sports Club.
It will be a repeat of the Qatar men’s League final where Arabi defeated Wakrah to regain the title after a gap of 24 years. However, tomorrow’s final will crown a new champion.
Al Wakrah have failed to qualify for HH The Emir Cup finals in 16 years with their last appearance ending with a defeat to Al Rayyan in the 2001 final. Al Arabi have come close on three occasions but have lost to Rayyan each time.
Al Arabi were a force to reckon with in the initial years of the league which was established in 1981. They went on to win five straight titles and then, after a stutter, won two more, the last in the 1993-94 season.
Both teams have shocked some of the big guns to set up a title clash, and none have a distinct edge, although statistically speaking, Al Arabi may fancy their chances a little more as they have momentum on their side after their win over Wakrah in the league final.
“We have won the league after a big gap and now playing HH The Emir Cup final is good enough motivation for us,” said Al Arabi coach Hatem Mamlouk at a pre-match press conference.
The 25-year-old in-form forward Nicholas Stover, William Earl Byrd, Oumar Seck and Khalid Suliman Abdi are some of the important players for Arabi.
“We have played consistent basketball this season. All our players are upbeat for the final,” the Tunisian said.
Al Wakrah, who haven’t won on the domestic circuit yet, are ready for their first silverware.
“We are excited to play in one more final this year. We have reached this stage after a lot of struggle, and are confident and ready for the show. But as we all know it is a final and it will be a tough one,” coach Ihab Galal said.
Erfan Ali Saeed, who was the top scorer with 32 points in the semi-final win against defending champion Al Gharafa, Demarious Amond Bolds and Ernest Lee Ross Jr are in fine form for the team.
Talking about his team’s preparations, Galal said his boys are upbeat for the final hurrah. “All my boys are fit and raring to go against Arabi,” he said.
The match begins at 6.30pm at the Al Gharafa Indoor Hall.
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