BAHRAIN last night went down firing on all cylinders against Saudi Arabia 70-77 in a crucial clash in 14th GCC Basketball Championship in Kuwait, reports Vijay Mruthyunjaya.
It was a heart-stopping thriller from start to finish. The scores were level on 11 occasions and the lead changed hands more than 20 times before Saudi Arabia dug deep into their reserves with less than two minutes left and the scores tied for the last time at 69-69.
In the last 90 seconds, Saudi scored eight points to Bahrain’s one and that in the ultimate analysis made all the difference.
It was Bahrain’s first defeat in three matches and they are on seven points while the Saudis consolidated their position at the top of the table with 10 points from four matches.
In the second match last night, hosts Kuwait routed Qatar 73-56 for their second victory.
Bahrain take on Kuwait in the last group match today at 7pm while Qatar clash with the UAE at 5pm.
Tomorrow is a rest day and in the semi-finals on Saturday the team finishing first take on the team finishing fourth while the team finishing second clash with the team finishing third.
The final is on Sunday.
Bahrain started off confidently with a Subah Azzam three-pointer and regained the lead 11-9 through a Mohammed Buallay layup but Saudi Arabia claimed the first quarter 15-14 after the scores were even 14-14 in the last few seconds.
Bahrain were slow off the blocks in the second quarter and the Saudis opened the gap to four points before Ahmed Ramadhan Haji converted a three-pointer and a Ahmed Ismaeel layup saw the Reds go ahead for the first time 21-20 with a little less than eight minutes to go.
The scores were even again at 24-24 and 34-34 before Bahrain could regain the lead with a Mohammed Hammooda three pointer 37-34 before sealing the quarter 25-20 for an encouraging four point lead - 39-35 - at half-time.
But the Saudis turned on the heat in the third quart er during which the scores were tied four times. They stringed together small but steady leads to turn the tables on Bahrain and win the quarter by a massive seven points (23-15) which proved costly in the end though Bahrain still held a one point lead 55-54 going into the final canto.
Bahrain, however, could not hang on to that slender lead as they repeatedly missed the target, fouled or made wrong passes.
Saudis seized the opportunity and opened up a seven point lead with a little over four minutes left. But Bahrain did not throw in the towel and drew level for the last time 69-69 as Chester Giles converted his free throws with one minute and 40 seconds left.
With 20 seconds left and Saudis leading 75-70, Bahrain had no option but to go for three-pointers to turn the match on its head but Buallay missed twice from outside the semi-circle and Saudis held on for a narrow victory.
Mohammed Alsuwailem top scored for the Saudis with 21 points while Marzouq Almuwallad (18) and Mohammed Alsager (10) were the other main contributors.
Giles top scored for Bahrain with 14 while Haji (13) and Azzam (11) were the only other two players to get into double figures.