A highly charged Phnom Penh Dragons put their back-to-back defeats behind them to post an 80-69 win over Ganzberg in a high-intensity contest that stood out on game day three of the Cambodia Basketball League sponsored by Western Union and Coca-Cola at the Beeline Arena on Saturday.
The Dragons, who changed ends halfway with a 19-point lead, rode out a fourth quarter rally by Ganzberg. Eric Laughlin, who scored 23 points for Dragons, spent the final minutes behind the foul lines, but he had done a neat job of it by turning in nearly 50 per cent of his 21 free throws.
In the company of Ben Laird (21 points), it was Laughlin who had plotted Ganzberg’s downfall.
While the full strength Dragons took the court well-primed for this crucial tie and determined to overturn defeats in the first two rounds, Ganzberg showed up with just five players, the rest arriving during the first quarter.
The Dragons jumped into an early lead as Tai Ponlok hit hard with seven points in the first 10 minutes.
The first two quarters were dominated by the Dragons but at the start of the third, Ponlok had to sit out after his fifth foul even as Ganzberg switched from zonal defence to man-to-man with some degree of success, edging as close as seven points of their rivals in those frenzied last 10 minutes.
The Dragons, however, kept their nerves and the Ganzberg high press resulted in a clutch of fouls and bonus free throws to the opposition. Geoff Cruz was the man of the hour for Ganzberg with 22 points, with admirable support coming from David Sander (11 points)
“It is a great satisfaction that the offensive potential of the team has come out. We still have a lot to learn and improve, but we are getting better every game. Tonight, I am very proud of the boys,” Dragons team manager Michael Dibbern told the Post after the victory.
Cellcard Eagles made their game against the all-Chinese Galaxy into a one-way street, punching home with a 75-51 victory. A dominant performance under the rim by Keith Kelly (27 points) and Geoff Harry’s supporting 19 points tied Galaxy up in knots despite Kelvin Chan (16 points) doing his best on the counter.
Just one regular basket separated one of the prime contenders in IRB The Lord from Sela Meas 43-41 in a tight finish involving the two all-Cambodian teams.
With both sides being overtly cautious and defensive, the shooting rate, notably at three-point range, was quite low given their known potential in this area.
With barely 15 seconds to go, The Lord had a one-point lead when Ouch Phanat got two free throws to shoot. He could basket only one and Sela Meas rushed out in a panic shot that ended up as an air ball. Having gained possession, The Lord played out the remaining few seconds.
Chan Chanborey (13 points), Ouch Phanat (10) and Mong Rathana (8) were main scorers for IRB while Touch Sochea (9), Peng Darath (8), Sok Samnang (7) did well for Sela Meas.
Top ranked CCPL Heat suffered an unexpected reverse at the hands of Pate 310, who took the court as the bottom-most team in the rankings after game day two.
The fierce rivalry between these two all-Cambodian sides was palatable from get-go and Pate managed to pull off a 53-50 victory as two national players, Sok Tour and You Meng Mour, led the charge for their teams and added to the intensity of the contest.
In the final minute of the game, Pate led by three points but You Meng Mour, who was Heat’s top scorer with 19 points, was fouled on his three-point attempt.
He was up at the foul line with three free throws to shoot with dead zero on the clock. To his side’s utter disappointment, he missed all three.
For Pate, Sok Tour’s 14 points stood out. He was well assisted by Taing Peng Kay (9), and Chea Kok Try (8).
“We had several of our players injured today [such as] national player Nim Vannak. This impacted our shooting capacity,” Heat manager Davuth Sin told the Post.