Riyadi beat Dynamo 106-79 on Sunday in Manara. In doing so, Riyadi took a serious step toward winning the Lebanese championship title.

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The final of the Lebanese first division men’s basketball championship between Riyadi (West Asian champions) and Dynamo (Lebanese regular season champions) continued on Sunday afternoon with the fourth game of the best-of-seven series. On Friday, Riyadi had beaten Dynamo (82-73) to take a 2-1 lead in the play-off final.

At their home ground of Saëb Salam Stadium in Manara, Riyadi were likely to win this crucial match of the series, especially after their triumph over Dynamo on Friday at their home ground of Rockland Arena.

Dynamo coach Jad el-Hajj stated before the match on the home defeat, “Our defense has always been good and satisfactory, and has never caused any issues. On the other hand, our attack is weak and scattered. That is the area where I will have to review my plans and adjust my tactics.”

The rest of the match proved him both right and wrong: right for the bland, solution-less attack; wrong for the defense, which was porous to say the least, conceding over 100 points in the end.

A fateful duel

Coaches Ahmad Farran (Riyadi) and Jad el-Hajj (Dynamo) made no changes to their respective starting line-ups for this fateful, sold-out duel.

Waël Arakji scored first for Riyadi (2-0). Dynamo tried their luck with the counter-attack, but to no avail. Arakji scored again (4-0). At this point in the first quarter, both teams scored basket after basket (13-6 in favor of Riyadi, with the score difference quickly widening to 18-6 in Dynamo’s favor).

With three minutes remaining, Hajj replaced Karim Ezzeddine with Ali Mahmoud, who celebrated his birthday on the floor.

Meanwhile, Farran gave his men strict instructions: defend Zach Lofton and block any attempt at a basket. This tactic paid off, as the Dynamo scorer was held to just 4 points in the final ten minutes, (25-16) for Riyadi.

The Yellows kept up their momentum in the second quarter, extending their lead in front of a delirious home crowd (30-18 then 36-23). Until then, coach Hajj did not seem to have found the solution to his apathetic attack, with the hosts scoring 41 points to the guests’ 27.

In this quarter, Duop Reath carried Riyadi on his shoulders, dunking twice on passes from Amir Saoud, who added a successful shot from behind the arc. Coach Hajj’s men, on the other hand, missed all their attempts, including those just under the panel. At the break, Riyadi logically led by 15 points (50-35).

Zone defense

At the restart, Dynamo seemed to have changed their strategy, playing “zone defense”. A counter-attack by Lofton’s team-mates was thwarted by Duop’s partners. The Yellows thus continued to lead, with a difference of 22 points (65-43 and 67-45).

In the third quarter of the game, the pace of play somewhat slowed down, despite the thunderous cheers from the crowd. The Dynamo attack, as it had been since the start of the game and Jad el-Hajj’s admission, remained in disarray… With 81 points in its own basket to Dynamo’s 53 at the end of this period, Riyadi entered the fourth and final quarter with a very large 28-point lead. This was extended to 32 points (96-64). But in a final surge, Hajj’s men reduced the deficit to 24 points (98-74).

Too little, too late for a spectacular “remontada”, Farran’s men regained the upper hand and surpassed 100 points to claim a crushing victory (106-79).

Riyadi extended their lead in the final series to three wins to one over Dynamo, and are now just one step away from the final crown. The championship’s fate could even be sealed as early as Monday (9:45 pm) at Rockland Arena.

Schedule and results

Monday May 22 at Rockland Arena (9:45 pm): Dynamo-Riyadi 87-78

Dynamo take a 1-0 lead in the series.

Wednesday May 24 at Manara (9:45 pm): Riyadi-Dynamo 92-84

Riyadi equalizes (1-1) in the series.

Friday May 26 at Rockland Arena (9:45 pm): Dynamo-Riyadi 73-82

Riyadi take the lead (2-1) in the series.

Sunday May 28 at Manara (5:00 pm): Riyadi-Dynamo 106-76

Riyadi extend their lead (3-1) in the series.

Monday May 29 at Rockland Arena (9:45 pm): Dynamo-Riyadi

Wednesday May 31 at Manara (9:45 pm): Riyadi-Dynamo

Friday June 2 at Rockland Arena* (9:45 pm): Dynamo-Riyadi.

* Dynamo have the advantage of an extra game at home.