Manama and Al Ahli will clash tonight in the final game of their best-of-three Zain Basketball League semi-final series at the Khalifa Sports City Arena.
The series is currently tied at 1-1 after 20-time champions Al Ahli defeated Manama, 93-86, last Thursday before the defending champions – who won their 21st title last year; the most by any team – roared back into contention for a place in the final with a dominant, 95-85, win.
Both sides have relied heavily on their overseas stars with Manama’s American pros, Travin Thibodeaux and Sir’Dominic Pointer and Al Ahli’s US imports Dakari Johnson and Taylor Rochestie top-scoring for their respective sides in both games.
But both teams have also seen impressive performances by their local players.
Ahmed Salman, Mohammed Ameer, Ahmed Aldurazi and Mustafa Husain have justified Manama captain Hasan Nowrooz’s faith in them by backing up their overseas teammates well and scoring crucial points when needed.
And Al Ahli captain Mohammed Qurban has lived up to his credentials as a power forward with his aggressive style of play while inspiring teammates Hesham Sarhan, Maitham Jameel, Subah Hussain and Ali Aqeel to take his lead and impose their own presence in each game.
Tonight’s match will test both teams as the deciding encounter of a three-game play-off comes with its own, unique pressure.
Tempers have already flared on occasion in the earlier two games and, with a place in the final on the line, supporters of both teams – who packed the arena to capacity on both Thursday and Sunday – can expect to see more such emotional responses to high-intensity situations.
But, on the whole, the quality of the basketball on display has been of the highest standard with the overseas pros being fulcrums for both teams around which the local players have built their own plays.
Lying in wait for whoever triumphs tonight are three-time champions Muharraq who, themselves, overcame a bad start to their best-of-three semi-final series by losing the first game to Al Ettihad before winning the next two to enter the final – which will also be a best-of-three series.
Manama and Al Ahli, though, will not be thinking about the kind of challenge Muharraq will present right now.
All that will be in the minds of players from both teams will be what strategy to devise to defeat their opponents and how best to execute their plans.
And then, once the game starts at 7pm, the team that manages to hold their nerve will have the advantage.