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Defeated in Zouk Mikael in the first game of the Wasl final, Iran’s Gorgan bounced back in Tehran on Wednesday to beat Riyadi 95-85. The two teams are now tied 1-1 ahead of the third and final match next Wednesday in Zouk Mikael.

A week after taking a resounding slap in the face from Riyadi in Zouk Mikael, the Gorgan club didn’t turn the other cheek.

Indeed, the Iranians showed a completely different face at home, dominating the Lebanese 95-85 in the match between the two teams in Tehran on Wednesday.

Much to the delight of their faithful fans at the Azadi Basketball Hall, the Gorgan players responded well on Persian soil.

Iranian Control

The Iranian club took control of the game from the outset, with a clear dominance under the baskets. With a semi-classic starting five comprising Ali Mansour, Karim Zainoun, Jonathan Simmons, Hayg Gyokchyan, and Elemedine Kikanovic, the Lebanese were rather slow at the start, no doubt surprised by the temerity of their hosts.

But the game soon settled down, with Ali Mansour scoring two sumptuous hat-tricks. The first quarter ended in Gorgan’s favor (23-22).

Photo: FIBA

Small Lead

Buoyed by Saoud, who distilled incisive passes to his team-mates, notably Kikanovic and Sakakini, Riyadi found their feet again in the second quarter, closing with a small lead (45-41).

After the break, both teams threw everything they had into the battle. The level of play was high, and the protagonists returned blow for blow. The score was up and down 67-67 by the 30th.

To say that the fourth quarter was crucial would be an understatement. Unfortunately, it was at this precise moment that the Riyadi players opted for a festival of turnovers. Tense and clumsy (2/8 on shots), dominated on the rebound and in terms of impact, Farran’s protégés were outplayed in all areas of the game. Taking advantage of this lapse in concentration on the part of their opponents, the Iranians came back to score and then outscored the Lebanese. The dynamic had been reversed. Riyadi were dropping a lot of balls, and Gorgan were able to take control of proceedings towards the end of the game, thanks in particular to Will Cherry, Arsalan Kazemi, and Sina Vahedi. With confidence growing, the defensive volume was even more intense and completely crushed any Riyadi attacking threat. Youssof Vand delivered the final blow with a one-handed dunk before the end of regulation time to send the defending champions down 95-85. This score allowed Gorgan to recover from their humiliating defeat in Game 1.

A Bad Night

“It’s one of those bad nights for us. We can’t expect to win a game against a team like Gorgan and commit 17 turnovers. It’s just too much. What’s more, we didn’t shoot well today. It was the opposite of what we had in Beirut. We’ve got a lot of work to do before the last game in  Beirut,” Ahmad Farran explained after the match.

In the end, victory went to the team that wanted it most on Wednesday.

After the Riyadi had been spanked in Zouk Mikael, Mostafa Hashemi had urged his men not to turn the other cheek. The Iranian coach was heard. The Lebanese now know what they have to do next Wednesday in Zouk Mikael.

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