The 2016 Cambodian Basketball League season reaches its thrilling climax on Saturday when the top-ranked Extra Joss Fighters and their arch-rivals ALLN Confucius Supermen square off in the title game at the Olympic Stadium Indoor Arena.
Lively anticipation surrounds the 3pm tip-off as the Fighters carry to the floor the psychological advantage of having beaten the Supermen by a four-point margin in the round-robin stage. But it was the intensity of that game and its rousing finish that will give the Supermen optimism.
The Fighters enjoy the advantage of having had most of their squad together for the past three seasons, while the Supermen have drawn up their roster this season with players pulled together from different teams.
In the Fighters’ line-up, Stephen Siruma, Santos Jomar and Ken “Black Mamba” Gadaffi were part of the losing CBL final side against the Mekong Tigers last season and will be hoping to go one better this time round.
In the ALLN camp, Jeff Kane and Aimar Sabayo, who lead the charge for the Supermen, were in the roster of Alaxan Patriots, the winners of the inaugural edition. Going into the final, both teams look equally matched and how the coaches deploy the team and make use of their rotation could prove decisive.
Fighters coach Oktavianus in the last couple of games has opted to use the Nigerian duo of Ken Gadaffi and Kelechi Njoku, along with Siruma Stephen, Jomar Santos and Jasper Serrano in his starting line-up, while Aimar Sabayo, Jonna Cunnaman, Sean Looney, Webb and Meng Hama are the preferred starters for ALLN.
“We are excited about the chance to be in the final. We have played all season without defeat but it comes to nothing if we lose again, so we want to give it our best and hopefully we can become champions,” Fighters coach Hauw said.
ALLN Supermen manager Kenneth Kim said: “Win or lose we will still be happy. If we win, we will be proud; if we lose, we will be happy to lose to a great team like EJF.”
Meanwhile, Ken Gadaffi, who is one of the oldest players in the league at 46 and has seen it all from the start of the CBL, will be playing in his third final.
“I really don’t know how it will go. It’s a match that I believe the fans will be excited about, and they will be on the edge of their seats for the duration of the game. I want to win it,” Gadaffi said.“I hope we can be lucky this time and I can retire happy.”
Before the grand finale, Bayon Airlines and MSGM Beast will play off for third place. Bayon pipped their rivals 74-73 the last time the two sides met. The stakes are much higher now and the game could produce another tight finish.