Bahrain beat hosts United Arab Emirates (UAE) 68-48 last night in their opening game of the FIBA Under-18 Asian Championship GBA Qualifer in Dubai to get their campaign off to a perfect start.
Having entered the fourth quarter leading by 14 points at 52-38, Bahrain’s bright young basketball players refused to let their advantage slip, keeping the pressure on the UAE by maintaining their lead at 58-44 with five minutes to go in the game.
The hosts, who had been trailing the visitors since the first few minutes of the match, were never able to reduce the deficit and entered the final minute of the game 19 points behind at 45-64.
They managed three more points in the last 60 seconds but the excellent Ismaeel Alansari added four more by himself for Bahrain to ensure a comfortable win that had looked increasingly likely once the kingdom’s team had entered the change room at half-time leading 36-24 and looking, by a distance, the superior team on the court.
Earlier, the first few minutes of the match were the only time the UAE had a lead, at 3-0, before Alansari and Mohamed Qamber put Bahrain ahead with a couple of two-pointers with the scoreboard reading 5-3 in the fourth minute.
Soon, Bahrain were leading 10-5 as their strong defensive strategy managed to counter most of the scoring attempts made by the UAE team. But Abdulaziz Ahmad, the standout player for the home side, scored a two-pointer in the sixth minute and, when Hussain Alblooshi added a wonderful three-pointer a minute later, the UAE had managed to draw level at 10-10.
Bahrain were playing a smart, organised game, however, and, with the UAE making continuous mistakes in passing and shooting, edged ahead again, courtesy of a two-pointer by Abdulrazaq Almalki. The energetic Ali Hasan added another two-pointer to ensure that his team ended the quarter ahead at 14-10.
The UAE fell further behind by the halfway point in the second quarter, trailing 17-23 after Almalki, Hasan and Elias Abdulla all contributed to Bahrain’s tally.
It was time now for the Naser Alanzoor show. Bahrain’s young star produced three brilliant plays in the last few minutes of the quarter, with two resulting in three-pointers and, despite the valiant efforts of the UAE’s Ahmad, who appeared to be single-handedly keeping his team in the contest, Bahrain’s lead at half-time read 36-24.
Meanwhile, Alanzoor had more magic up his sleeve and he unleashed it in the first few minutes of the third quarter, scoring a magnificent two-pointer before Alansari added to Bahrain’s joy with a two-pointer of his own. With Bahrain leading 44-30 and five minutes left in the quarter, the situation was now looking extremely dire for the UAE, especially since Ahmad appeared to be tiring a little.
Alansari added two more two-pointers with Abbas Albasri chipping in with another and Bahrain entered the last two minutes of the quarter comfortably placed at 51-34.
Ahmad and Alblooshi added a couple of two-pointers in that time to enable the UAE to edge a little closer but when Albasri converted a free throw for Bahrain just before the quarter ended, his side were leading 52-38 and the UAE needed to mount a special effort in the last quarter if they wanted to win. But it was not to be as Bahrain stood firm and saw the game out.
Now, with their confidence boosted by this victory, Bahrain will take on Oman today. The game starts at 3pm, Bahrain time.