SAUDI Arabia overcame a tough challenge from Palestine while Sri Lanka left it late in their win against Bangladesh in the Fiba Asia Cup 2021 Pre-Qualifiers Western Region at Zain Basketball Arena in Um Al Hassam last night.
The Saudis had to shrug off some cobwebs early on before claiming an 85-76 win over their Palestinian counterparts. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, had a woeful start but managed to roar back in the final quarter en route to securing a 63-60 triumph over Bangladesh.
The qualifiers continue today with another two games at the same venue. Both Saudi and Sri Lanka will be looking for back-to-back wins when they face off at 5pm, followed by hosts Bahrain looking for their second victory when they battle Bangladesh at 7pm. The Bahrainis had a day off from play yesterday.
All are welcome to attend today’s games. Entrance for fans is free.
Saudi needed an entire half to warm up before taking control of their contest against a battling Palestine side. The Saudis fell to a 12-17 hole at the end of the first quarter, which Palestine extended to a 41-36 advantage at the half.
But a third period in which they outscored their rivals by 16 points completely changed the face of the game. It gave the Saudis a comfortable 66-55 lead heading into the final canto, and they never looked back.
Khalid Abdel Gabar top scored for the Saudis with 22 points. He also took down seven rebounds and dished out four assists.
Fahad Belal added 17 markers, which included four three-pointers, while Marzouq Almuwallad chipped in with 16 points and four steals. Big man Mohammed Alsuwailem finished with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Sani Sakakini had another monster effort for the Palestinians, who suffered their first loss of the competition after claiming a blowout win against Bangladesh on opening night. He had 28 points and 22 rebounds but also committed seven turnovers in the game.
In Sri Lanka’s win, Kisal Cooray, Praneeth Udumalagala and Don Roshan Randima all came up with key contributions in the final minute to help their team in their end-game rally.
With the scores tied at 59-all and only 51.8 seconds left on the clock, Cooray made one of two free-throws to give Sri Lanka a 60-59 lead. Then a steal by Udumalagala and an unsportsmanlike foul on Bangladesh’s Mithun Biswas, his fifth, put Udumalagala on the line where he made one of two to make it 61-59, while retaining possession.
Randima then put the nail in the coffin with a basket from close range for the final four-point edge.
Udumalagala finished with 17 points while Randima and Clinton Thevakumar had 13 apiece for Sri Lanka.
Biswas was the top man for Bangladesh, scoring 19 before fouling out.