DELIGHT turned into despair last night for the Bahrain national basketball team in Kuwait City as they suffered their second soul-shattering defeat following two straight victories in the GCC Basketball Championship.
But it is not all gloom-and-doom as Bahrain are in the semi-finals and meet Saudi Arabia tomorrow for a spot in the final on Sunday.
In the other semi-final tomorrow, hosts and group leaders Kuwait take on the UAE while the fifth team in the fray, Qatar, bowed out last night.
It has been a roller-coaster ride for Bahrain so far in Kuwait City. They scored emphatic victories in the first two matches against the UAE and Qatar and then went down fighting to Saudi on Wednesday in a see-saw battle which saw the scores level on 11 occasions and the lead changing hands more than 20 times.
And last night, Bahrain suffered an even more agonising experience against hosts Kuwait in yet another humdinger of a match which witnessed more action than a James Bond thriller.
The first quarter set the trend as both Bahrain and Kuwait fought for each point with increasing intensity. Lead changed hands frequently as neither team could gain an upper hand in a clash of little importance as both were assured of a semi-final berth in the five-team competition with the top four qualifying for the semi-finals.
Yet, the competition was fierce as neither Bahrain nor Kuwait were willing to relax and save the best for the more demanding job ahead in the semi-final tomorrow or the, possible, final the next day.
After the nerve-wrecking first quarter which ended 19-19, Bahrain won the second 18-16 for a handy lead at half-time.
But the third quarter proved disastrous for Bahrain and decisive for Kuwait. It was almost lopsided as the hosts thoroughly outplayed their opponents to win it by 11 points (22-11) to take a crucial eight point lead going into the final canto.
Kuwait maintained the pressure on the home stretch and though Bahrain staged an admirable late rally it was a case of the bridge being too far.
Ahmed Ismaeel top scored for Bahrain with 14 points while Ahmed Ramadhan Haji contributed 14 and Mohammed Buallay eight.
For Kuwait, Abdulla Alshammari was the hero scoring 14 points while Rashed Alrabah (13), Mohammed Ashkanani (10) and Turki Alshemmari (8) lend him ample support.
In the first match, the UAE edged out Qatar 85-82 in another close encounter.
At the end of a tight and enthralling group stage, Kuwait topped the table with seven points, same as Saudi, with three wins and a loss each, while Bahrain and UAE finished with six points each with two wins and two defeats.
The stage definite looks set for a fitting finale, not for the weak hearted, of course.