MUHARRAQ lived to fight another day while Riffa advanced to the Golden Square semi-finals last night in the Zain Bahrain Basketball League.
Muharraq forced a decisive third game in their best-of-three playoff against Al Hala following a hard-earned 95-87 win.
Riffa, on the other hand, booked their tickets to the last four following a nail-biting 69-66 victory over Nuwaidrat to sweep their best-of-three play-off in two games.
Muharraq and Hala face off in the decisive rubber match on Wednesday, for the right to join Riffa, defending champions Manama and title contenders Al Ahli in the Golden Square.
In Muharraq’s victory yesterday, the boys in red took control of the contest in a one-sided third quarter, where they turned a slim 39-37 lead at the half to a commanding 67-52 advantage heading into the final canto.
But Hala were not prepared to go down without a fight, and they mounted a furious rally in the payoff period to get to within just four points, 86-82, on a Hasan Gerashi jump shot with just over a minute to play.
That was as close as they would get, however, as Muharraq had an answer each time Hala threatened once more with only seconds remaining. A pair of charity shots from star guard Bader Abdulla Malabes pegged the final score and sealed the much-needed win.
The backcourt tandem of Ahmed Hassan and Malabes, plus recently signed American professional Arnett Moultrie, combined for a total of 74 of Muharraq’s output to spearhead their team when they needed it the most.
Hassan top scored with 30 points including five three-pointers. He also dished out six assists. Malabes and Moultrie both finished with 22 points. Malabes was red hot from beyond the arc, burying six-out-of-seven three-pointers.
They were the only players in double figures for Muharraq, who led by as many as 21 points in the game.
Hala got another fine effort from big man Loren Woods from the US. He scored 19 points, took down 15 rebounds, and blocked five shots. Gerashi contributed 18 points and was three-of-five from beyond the arc. Ali Jaffar added 15 points while Mahmood Abbas had 11.
In yesterday’s other play-off clash, Riffa came up big in the final moments to come away with the sweep.
US import Marcel Jones was determined to get his team through to the next phase and he scored 22 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. Redha Shams added 14 points but they received little help from the rest of their team.
Serbian centre Mile Ilic paced Nuwaidrat in defeat with 22 points and 16 boards. Hassan Madan added 16 in the losing effort.