MUHARRAQ barged into the Golden Square semi-finals of the Zain Bahrain Basketball League last night following a resounding 89-69 victory over Al Hala in the third and deciding game of their best-of-three play-off series.
After a sluggish start, the victors rallied in the second quarter to turn a 16-23 deficit at the end of the first to a 44-35 lead heading into the break.
They built on their momentum and closed the game out strong, giving their rivals no chance to fight back en route to securing the lopsided 20-point win.
Muharraq’s Arnett Moultrie came out on the winning end of the battle of the professionals with Hala’s Loren Woods.
Moultrie finished with 25 points, 25 rebounds and two blocked shots to help spearheaded his team. Woods battled hard against his fellow-American and he too finished with 25 points, while taking down 18 rebounds and blocking two shots.
Hala led by as many as nine points, 21-12, in the first quarter after back-to-back three-pointers from Mahmood Abbas and Ali Jaffar.
But a 12-0 run by Muharraq to start the second quarter, capped by a lay-up from Mohammed Buallay to make it 28-23 halfway through the period.
They continued to pile on the pressure and on a Moultrie basket made it 41-31, before Ahmed Hassan buried a three-pointer that gave them their first double-digit lead, 44-33.
In the second half, Muharraq were in full control. They built leads as big as 22 points late in the game, when the win was virtually in the bag.
Ali Abbas and Hassan both scored 18 points apiece in the win. Abbas was red hot from long distance as he made four three-pointers in the game. Hassan chipped in with two makes, as did Bader Abdulla Malabes, who finished with 16 points.
For Hala, Hasan Gerashi put in a 15-point, 10-rebound effort in his attempt to complement Woods. Ali Jaffar chipped in with 14 in the losing effort.
With the result, Muharraq joins defending champions Manama, Al Ahli and Riffa in the Golden Square semi-finals. Manama and Ahli had already punched their tickets to the final four after finishing as the top two teams at the end of the double round-robin regular season.
Riffa, on the other hand, had to battle past Nuwaidrat in their own-best of-three play-off series, which they won in two games.
In the Golden Square, Manama are set to be heavy favourites when they take on Riffa while Ahli and Muharraq face off in a mouth-watering match-up between two top title-contenders.
The schedule of the Golden Square will be announced by the Bahrain Basketball Association soon.