In Dubai, Al Riyadi made a strong comeback after an initial slow start, defeating Manama with a commanding score of 112-84 in their West Asia Super League (WASL) Final 8 opener at the Sheikh Saeed Bin Maktoum Sports Hall on Saturday night.
The reigning WASL-West Asia champions, despite falling behind by seven points early in the game, unleashed an explosive 34-point performance in the second quarter, securing a 55-39 halftime lead. They maintained their lead throughout the game, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Al Riyadi (1-0) now has the opportunity to clinch the top seed in Group A and secure a spot in the semi-finals by defeating their inter-city rivals, Beirut Club, on June 12.
Several players shone for Al Riyadi, with Duop Reath leading the offensive charge with a game-high 22 points and 6 rebounds. Kevin Murphy and Bosnian center Elmedin Kikanovic contributed 19 points each, with the duo combining for 20 points in the pivotal second quarter. Wael Arakji added 15 points and 7 assists, while Amir Saoud and Karim Zeinoun each chipped in 12 points, with Saoud also tallying 9 assists.
The turning point in the game came early in the second period when Kikanovic helped Al Riyadi erase their deficit, and Ali Mansour’s three-point play gave them the lead, 28-26, with 8:10 remaining in the quarter.
Al Riyadi showcased impressive shooting, recording a remarkable 63.2 percent field goal percentage, largely attributed to their excellent ball movement, which resulted in 27 team assists.
After the game, Al Riyadi’s head coach, Ahmad Farran, expressed satisfaction with the win and noted that the team was gradually finding their rhythm after a two-week break following the Lebanese championship.
Wael Arakji, one of the standout players, acknowledged the challenging start but praised the team’s effort and looked forward to the upcoming game against Beirut. Manama’s head coach, Linos Gavriel, recognized that his team couldn’t maintain their usual performance level, especially on defense and execution, leading to the loss.