Al Ahli of the UAE last night clinched their third successive title in the GCC Clubs Basketball Championship.
Ahli secured first place in the tournament’s 37th edition held in Bahrain following an 88-81 victory over countrymen and silver-medalists Al Shabab in a tightly contested final played at Zain Basketball Arena in Um Al Hassam.
Bahraini hosts Manama, meanwhile, claimed the bronze medals following a 93-88 overtime win over Al Rayyan of Qatar in the game for third place.
At the conclusion of both of yesterday’s fixtures, the top three teams were awarded their trophies and medals in a podium ceremony attended by Youth and Sports Affairs Minister Hisham bin Mohammed Al Jowder, Bahrain Basketball Association Vice-President Nasser Al Qaseer and other officials.
In the title-decider, Ahli built a big lead early on only to give it up in the second half before fighting back and closing strong.
Five-year NBA veteran Sam Young once again came up with some end-game heroics. With both teams deadlocked at 75-apiece, Young gave Ahli the lead for good with a three-pointer and only four minutes remaining.
Both teams continued to trade baskets until Young had a lay-up with 49 seconds to play to stretch Ahli’s lead to 87-79, virtually putting the game away.
Young finished with a game-high 34 points including four three-pointers. He also grabbed 12 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes of the contest. Fellow-American Mitchell Watt scored 10 points and had 15 rebounds to go along with five blocked shots for the three-time reigning champions.
Saeed Alajmani chipped in with 13 markers including another four from beyond the arc, while Talal Alnuaimi had 10.
American Sammy Monroe led Shabab with 24 points. He also had six rebounds, five assists and five steals. Countryman Tyler Wilkerson added 21 and 12 in the losing effort.
Both Ahli and Shabab headed into last night’s final with undefeated records. Ahli built a commanding 26-15 lead after the first quarter which they maintained at 45-35 at the half. But Shabab bounced back brilliantly after the interval and took a 67-61 edge into the final canto.
Ahli did well to fight back before pulling away in the game’s closing moments.
Meanwhile, in the bronze medal game, Manama battled hard after being behind the entire 40 minutes and appeared to be headed for another heartbreaking finish for the second night in a row.
But team captain Mohammed Hussain fired in a crucial three-pointer to tie the proceedings at 80-all with a minute and 42 seconds remaining. Mohammed Quwayed sank two free throws for Manama but Mohamed Harat managed to score with 11 seconds remaining to send the game into the extra session deadlocked at 82-apiece.
Quwayed gave Manama an inspirational start to overtime with a three-pointer, and the home side did well to keep their rivals at bay from there. Rayyan got no closer than three points after a basket by Australian Luke Nevill with 25 seconds to play.
Quwayed and Hussain combined for 65 of Manama’s total output in the game. Quwayed poured in 34 markers including four three-pointers and also had eight rebounds, eight assists and four steals. Hussain was red hot from the field, making seven-of-11 from beyond the arc. Bahamas professional Kadeem Coleby added 11 points and 10 rebounds while Georgian import Nikoloz Tskitishvili had eight points and 11 boards.
Harat paced Rayyan with 27 points and 17 rebounds.