Action packed Group Stage saw some blow outs, some heartbreaks and some buzzer beating last second wins.
For Lebanon, the team ended the Group Stage in winning fashion, beating all three opponents to finish top of the Group.
The first game saw them battling a tough Gillas team, behind Hayk’s historic debut in the Asian Cup scoring 19 points in 20 minutes off the bench along with 8 rebounds and a super efficient shot from downtown making 4 out of his 5 threes. Wael and Arledge shipped in with 20 and 19 points respectively to help close out the Philippines despite them making a late run, ending the game by a 15 point margin with Lebanon winning 95 to 80.
Second game was by far the toughest test for the Cedars in the Group Stage where they went toe to toe with the Tall Blacks but eventually made the difference in the fourth quarter outscoring New Zealand by 10 on the way to winning 86-72 and solidifying their place on top of Group D.
Fueled by their previous win Lebanon came ready behind Captain Arakji’s 25 points and Arledge’s 18 and 9 rebounds and with Hayk Gyokchyan playing the part of the team’s sixth man with another 19 point performance Lebanon had everything to outlast the Tall Blacks and give the Nation it’s first victory against New Zealand.
Final game was against a tired weakened Indian team after suffering 2 blowout losses against New Zealand and the Philippines, the team was getting ready to become a pushing bag yet again against Lebanon.
The game saw Coach Jad El Hajj resting his Captain Wael who can be seen and heard cheering for his teammates from the sidelines.
As expected the game was another blowout woth Lebanon winning by a whooping margin of 41 points.
It was a team effort where everyone saw the court especially young and rising Cedar and Michigan player Youssef ‘Yoyo’Khayyat who had a great game scoring a game high of 15 points along with impressive defensive stats, 3 steals and 2 blocks.
In other groups Bahrain was knocked out in heartbreaking fashion losing against the Chinese dragon by only 1 point and then losing again against Korea by just 5 points as they finish winless and fail to qualify.
Syria ended up with 1 win against Kazakhstan and finishing thrid in Group C which granted them a chance to move forward in the competition with a quarter final qualification game against New Zealand.
Saudi Arabia also finished winless with losses against Jordan, Australia and Indonesia which means they finished at the bottom of Group A and failed to qualify.
Jordan had ups and downs, losing against Australia but winning 2 games against Indonesia and KSA which gave them second place in Group A behind Australia.
Since first plce of every Group qulifies directly to the quarter final, 2nd and 3rd teams will have to face each other in Quarter final qualification matchups and Jordan had to play against a tough opponent in Chinese Taipei who finished 3rd in Group B.
The game was action packed with Jordan losing for most of the game, yet they came back behind a clutch performance by Freddy Ibrahim who scored 9 of his 19 points in the final minute where Taipei was leading by a comfortable 9 point margin. But Freddy had something else in mind, he scored 6 points and brought the lead down to 1 point, and after a intentional foul which gave Taipei a chance to go up by three and make things harder for Jordan, Chinese Taipei split the free throws and gave Jordan a chance to win, that’s where Freddy Ibrahim stepped up and the final 3 seconds of the game his half court prayer found the bottom of the net and gave Jordan the tight win.
Up next for Jordan, in the quarter final, they’ll face familiar faces in the Iranian team and winner will advance to the semi final to play Lebanon or China.
On the other side of the quarter final tree, Australia who finished top of Group A will play against the winner between Japan and the Philippines, Japan finishing second in Group C and the Philippines third in Group D.
Winner of Group B, Korea, will have to play the winner between New Zealand, second in Group D, and Syria who finished third in Group C.
The Lebanese team will have an offensive and defensive push with Ali Haidar coming back to rejoin the team after testing positive for COVID-19, but he’ll have his hands full with China’s Ex-NBA player and Rockets former Center Zhou Qui.
The game will be tough for both sides, Lebanon will look to improve his winning streak after finishing with a perfect 3/0 in the Group Stage. China will look to regain it’s basketball glory by advancing to the final rounds of the FIBA Asia Cup.