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The two big Lebanese clubs met for the first time this week in their series. The stakes are high as they both aim to reach the final of the West Asia Super League (WASL).

Al-Riyadi and La Sagesse met on Wednesday in the semi-finals of the West Asia Super League at the Nouhad Nawfal Stadium in Zouk Mikael. The match ended 95-92 in Al-Riyadi’s favor as both battled for a place in the final after an exciting and entertaining game.

La Sagesse, under the direction of Jad Al-Hajj, opted for a starting lineup comprising: Marc Khoueiry, Ahmad Ibrahim, Deng Acuoth, Karim Ezzeddine, and Jonathan Gibson. Al-Riyadi’s coach, Ahmad Farran, chose Wael Arakji, Elmedin Kikanovic, Manny Harris, Hayk Gyokchyan, and Karim Zeinoun.

The match got off to a flying start for La Sagesse, while Al-Riyadi found it difficult to score in attack. After an impressive alley-oop from La Sagesse, Arakji converted an and-one to change the momentum and give it to Al-Riyadi. Then they held a slight lead for the rest of the quarter (20-16).

The second quarter saw La Sagesse quickly equalize and take the lead after a few quick breaks. The gap between the two teams remained between two and three points, confirming the high level of this derby. After a strong offensive performance from Ahmad Ibrahim, who continued to attack the basket, La Sagesse found a way to take the lead (36-26). Amir Saoud, Al-Riyadi’s captain, then scored two consecutive three-point shots to reduce the gap to 4 points, which naturally got the Al-Riyadi fans more animated. The quarter ended 52-46 in La Sagesse’s favor after converting two three-point shots in the last two possessions.

While La Sagesse was prolific on offense, Al-Riyadi was drawing smart fouls on the other end. Although La Sagesse had the advantage going into the second half, this game was far from over, with two quarters to go.

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Festival of Three-Pointers

With the score tight and neither team taking the lead, La Sagesse and Al-Riyadi both raised their game. Midway through the quarter, Al-Riyadi equalized and then took the lead with a three-pointer from Karim Zeinoun. Number 7 then scored another from beyond the arc to give Al-Riyadi a crucial 6-point lead. Al-Riyadi then ended the quarter with an 8-point lead (73-65) after yet another Zeinoun three-pointer.

Al-Riyadi went into the final quarter with a crucial 8-point lead. All that remained was to maintain the same intensity on defense and precision on attack. Midway through the final quarter, they found the breakthrough with a 10-point lead over La Sagesse. With 30 seconds remaining, only 3 points separated the two teams after a technical foul by Wael Arakji. Ali Mansour hit two free throws to give Al-Riyadi a 5-point lead, Gibson responded with a tough three-pointer to keep the gap at two points with 10 seconds to play. Manny Harris immediately converted one of the last two free throws to give Al-Riyadi a three-point lead, and the game ended 95-92, despite a last vain attempt by Gibson.

Al-Riyadi Leads

After a thrilling match between these two great teams, Al-Riyadi leads 1-0 in the semi-finals. On Saturday, these two teams will meet again in the Lebanese Basketball League in a match that will decide the regular-season champion.