BADER Abdulla Malabes buried a go-ahead three-pointer with 25 seconds remaining to lift Muharraq to a thrilling 93-92 overtime victory over Riffa last night, in Game One of the best-of-five championship series in the 2018/2019 Zain Bahrain Basketball League.
Ali Jassim made a baseline triple to put Riffa ahead 89-88 with 45 seconds left in the extra session, but then Malabes answered with his own crucial perimeter basket to give Muharraq the lead for good at 91-89.
Backcourt mate Ahmed Hassan Aldurazi hit two pressure-packed free-throws with six seconds to go to virtually ice the win.
American import Shawne Williams fired in a consolation three-pointer near mid-court right before the final buzzer, but it could not prevent Muharraq from taking the all-important 1-0 finals lead.
Game Two is scheduled to be played on Sunday, also at the Khalifa Sports City arena in Isa Town.
The championship opener was closely contested from the opening tip and the 40 minutes of regulation could not separate the two teams, ending deadlocked at 82-apiece to force the overtime period.
Three players finished with over 20 points for Muharraq, who are coached Serbian by Ivan Jeremic. Newly signed import Mike Harris from the US led the way with 26 to go with 13 rebounds, while countryman Kevin Murphy finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Aldurazi contributed 20 along with five rebounds and five assists, while Malabes chipped in with 11 markers.
Harris, Aldurazi and Malabes each fired in three three-pointers in the game for the victors, who had 11 in all as a team.
Williams and fellow-American Arinze Onuaku both scored 23 points to pace Riffa, who are coached by former NBA champion and coach Sam Vincent. Williams also grabbed 13 rebounds in the contest. Onuaku fouled out just seconds into the extra session, which proved costly for Riffa.
Versatile forwards Mohammed Kuwayed and Mohammed Buallay scored 17 and 14, respectively, in the loss.
Muharraq went ahead early and a three-pointer by Murphy made it 22-12 with just under two minutes to go in the first period.
Riffa closed the quarter strong and cut the deficit to 16-22, which they reduced further to 39-44 by half-time.
In the third, Muharraq did well to maintain their advantage but Riffa were able to tie things at 63-apiece heading into the final canto. Substitute big man Abdulrahman Ghali banked in a three-pointer to beat the quarter buzzer and tie the proceedings.
That set the stage for the see-saw fourth period. Kuwaied had successive triples to give Riffa a slim 69-68 lead, and later Williams scored to break a 73-all tie.
But seven unanswered points put Muharraq ahead 80-75, and things remained close until the end of regulation, when Williams made two free-throws to make it 82-apiece and send the game into the additional five minutes.
In overtime, a basket from Harris and two charity shots from Kuwayed made it 86-all, and then two free-throws on the other from Sayed Kadhem Majed made it 88-86, setting the stage for the three-pointers of Jassim and Malabes in the final minute of action.