Considering the rivalry between Iranian and Lebanese teams – at all levels — Al Riyadi Beirut’s win over Mahram in the WABA League is momentous in itself.
“I think this is a big win for us,” said Riyadi coach Fouad Abouchakra after his team defeated the Iranian defending champions 83-73 to wrap up the best-of-three semifinal series in Game 2 itself, having won the Game 1 94-90 at Tehran last week.
“Playing in front of a capacity crowd was good enough motivation for the boys,” said Abouchakra.
“Beating a very strong basketball team like Mahram in back to back games takes a lot. Not many teams in our region have managed that. In fact, we are the first team to beat Mahram in WABA over the last two years,” Abouchakra said.
“I think these wins came mainly thanks to the focus of our players. We were determined to achieve what many people said we are not capable of and we achieved it,” he said.
“Look at the way our bench played last night (Tuesday). Our imports have done an excellent job for us throughout the season. And our locals have rallied around and played their parts to perfection,” Abouchakra said.
“There was also this complex that Lebanese teams don’t play well against Iranian teams. Unfortunately, we had failed to challenge that thought earlier. But with the way we have beaten Mahram both in Tehran as well as Beirut should answer all those questions,” he added.
Looking ahead, Abouchakra was of the opinion that either team will be as challenging as they come in “a Championship final.”
“It doesn’t matter who we play against. Be it Jala’a or Zob Ahan, we have our task cut out,” he said looking forward to the final.
Zob Ahan travel to Aleppo on Monday for the decisive Game 3 of the other semifinal series with both having won at home. Jala’a won 89-79 at Aleppo earlier this month and Zob Ahan bounced back to level the series with a 93-76 win on Monday.
“The most important factor for us that we are getting into our rhythm at the right moments,” said Abouchakra.
“We are a team of rhythm and once we get that going not many teams can stop us,” he added.
“For sure, we are looking at winning the WABA League and then the FIBA Asia Champions Cup. But right now our attention is on retaining the Lebanese League championship. Each of this title is as important as the other and carries its own weight,” he signed off.
Source: Fiba Asia