MANAMA moved one step closer to claiming an unprecedented fifth straight national title last night following a 78-74 victory over Al Ahli in game two of their best-of-five championship series in the Zain Bahrain Basketball League.
For the second successive game, Manama had to stave off a late Ahli rally en route to clinching another hard-earned result.
After Ahli court general Hussain Shaker buried a three-pointer with nine seconds to go to get his team to within a basket, 74-76, Manama’s American professional Wayne Chism sank two pressure-packed free-throws to make it a two-possession game once more.
The charity shots turned out to be the last of the contest as they pegged the final score and gave Manama a crucial 2-0 lead in the finals.
The four-time defending league champions had earlier needed to brush off a sluggish start where they went down by 15 in the second quarter before taking control of the game after the interval and leading by as many as 13 in the closing half.
Manama are now in prime position to clinch the league crown with a win in game three on Wednesday, also at Khalifa Sports City arena in Isa Town. It would be their 21st overall national title in Bahrain basketball history, although Ahli will be hoping to extend the series to a fourth game.
Mohammed Kuwayed lived up to his billing as one of today’s most talented and athletic Bahraini players by topping the Manama scoresheet with 26 points including two-three pointers, seven rebounds and four assists.
Hassan Nowrooz followed suit with 14 markers while Chism chipped in with 13 points and 17 rebounds.
Young big man Mohammed Ameer came off the bench to contribute 10 points and four boards.
For Ahli, seven-foot, two-inch NBA veteran Loren Woods led four players in double-figures with 18 points. He also had 15 rebounds and four blocks.
Kadhem Majed finished the game with 13 points while Shaker had 12. Both players sank three three-pointers apiece in the game.
Subah Hussain had 10m points and six rebounds in defeat. Ahli once again failed to get any decent contribution from high-scoring guard Hesham Sarhan, who had just three points from zero-for-eight from the floor in nearly 30 minutes of playing time.
Ahli are looking to secure their 18th league championship in this series and their first since the 2009/2010 season.
If needed, game four is scheduled for Saturday later this week while game five is set for May 1.