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Riyadi clinched a hard-fought victory against La Sagesse this Saturday in Lusail (Qatar), in a thrilling finale of the Wasl Super League. Riyadi thus secures its spot for the Asian Club Championship.

Lebanon undeniably continues to assert itself as one of the leading nations in Asian basketball. A fully Lebanese final of the Wasl Super League on Saturday surpassed all expectations, blending drama, emotion, and tension.

Riyadi stands out

For the 13th time this season, Riyadi and La Sagesse faced off, but this time in a summit like no other. A decisive match to determine the Wasl Super League champion and the qualifier for the Asian Club Championship, the BCL Asia.

Coach Ahmad Farran started the summit with a revamped starting five after Jonathan Simmons was injured, leaving out Wael Arakji, Karim Zeinoun, Amir Saoud, Elemedine Kikanovic, and Thon Maker. On the other hand, Jad el-Hajj offered a classic five for La Sagesse with Jonathan Gibson, Omar Jamaleddine, Ahmad Ibrahim, Karim Ezzedine, and Nikola Rakocevic. A lineup with which Riyadi managed to dominate the first quarter offensively and defensively, ending with a score of 24-11 for the Yellow team.

In the second quarter, the momentum shifted to the Greens, who tried, through their player Cleanthony Early (25 points in the match), to get back in the game. Early, with his exceptional drives, took advantage of Riyadi’s slow defense to narrow the gap to 8 points at halftime, with a score of 37-29 for the Yellow team.

Wasl official page

Gibson stepping up

The third quarter belonged to the Yellow team, which traditionally widens the gap against all its opponents, but not tonight… La Sagesse started the quarter with great concentration and managed to surprise the Yellows thanks to their foreign players Gibson and Early, who dominated a lost Riyadi defense against the high performances of the duo. The third quarter ended with La Sagesse in the lead (60-54).

The Greens continued their dominance at the start of the fourth quarter, paralyzing Riyadi’s attack, which failed to score easy points, with a defensive machine controlled by Omar Jamaleddine. Jamaleddine routed everyone, including Wael Arakji.

Arakji making history

As the match headed towards a historic victory for La Sagesse, Wael Arakji, the “terrible,” woke up a minute before the end of the match to score three consecutive triples, tying the score. Abruptly, La Sagesse found itself deprived of a title within reach. Riyadi narrowly escaped defeat. Arakji reminded everyone that while he may not be the MVP ASIA, he was of the caliber of great players from the Arab and Asian regions. The fourth quarter ended with a tie score of 79-79.

Overtime

In overtime, Riyadi managed to impose its rhythm despite the players under coach Jad el-Hajj feeling discouraged. On the brink of victory, they sealed the match with a score of 100-90. Riyadi was crowned champion of the Wasl Super League thanks to its hero Wael Arakji.

A victory that allows Riyadi to secure the ticket for the Asian Championship. La Sagesse has not faltered and exits the competition with their heads held high after a tough season.

For Riyadi, on the other hand, the journey continues with a new challenge ahead. The question is where and who can stop them.

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