Fast changing leads, comebacks and stumbles marked an intense contest in which Alaxan FR Patriots prevailed 80-71 over Ganzberg as the inaugural Cambodian Basketball League presented by Western Union was launched with great fanfare at the Beeline Arena on Saturday.
Spilling well into the late evening, this third and final game of the opening day of the season carried with it a strong flavour of Filipino rivalry that kept the stands buzzing with excitement.
The Patriots jumped out of the stalls well to cut the early wind, but Ganzberg always found the means to be well within range. The first quarter was as close as it could be, 19-16 Patriots, which turned it into a 41-30 half-time advantage.
After an up-and-down third quarter, it wasn’t until 90 seconds to play in the fourth that the Patriots assumed command with some fast breaks and solid defence.
“It was an intense game and adding to it was the Filipino rivalry between the teams. We are happy we won the game,” Patriots manager Chris Borja told the Post after their game.
In another match-up, Cellcard Eagles lost two key players – Sean Looney and Nic Morgan – to their fifth personal fouls at the start of the fourth quarter.
The impact was devastating as IRB The Lord reeled off 20 points to the Eagles 9 in the final stanza to come away with a 51-36 win in a game of low percentages on perimeter shooting.
National player Monh Ratana, who normally buckets well from the three-point line went blank. But what worked for The Lord was what they are feared for and excel at – fast transitions.
“It took us three quarters to find the best player configuration to defeat the other team. In the fourth quarter we had it, and could finally secure the victory,” IRB The Lord manager So Virak told the Post.
Sela Meas won the all-Cambodian affair 62-50 against a youthful NSK Dream, who flattered only to deceive.
The start for NSK was indeed a dreamy one, a 21-9 first-quarter lead built on sound offence and quick-shift overs, but the team could hardly sustain that pace in the second. Sela Meas, made up of seasoned players, were level on terms at 28 going into the second half of the contest.
The progression for Sela Meas in the third and fourth quarters was so good that they had a lot to spare in the waning moments of the game. Their strong showing was inspired by Sok Samnang, who posted 18 points, while Pheng Dara contributed 14 including a treble of three-point bombs.
The official opening ceremony before the start of the first batch of three games was presided over by Cambodian Basketball Federation President Sean Borath, who is also Secretary of State at the Education, Youth and Sport Ministry and a personal adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
All 12 teams in the roster were present in their regular colours, with the next set of matches to be played at the same venue on Saturday.