A fourth-quarter spurt ensured a 67-51 victory for Alaxan FR Patriots over their arch rivals IRB The Lord at the Beeline Arena on Saturday in the Cambodian Basketball League, sponsored by Western Union and Coca Cola.
The top-line contest involving two unbeaten teams snapped The Lord’s five-game run and left the Patriots as the only side yet to taste defeat in 11 weeks of competition.
But after enjoying the moments of jubilation that the victory gave the Patriots camp, manager Chris Borja lost no time in reminding his players that his sights are firmly fixed on nothing less than the title.
“It’s fantastic we won that game,” Borja told the Post. “What made the difference in the second half was team play. Now we are on top, but it’s useless if we lose in semi-finals.” Mutual respect was glaringly evident on the court and that largely explained away a tight first half and an even tighter third quarter. At the end of three sessions, the scoreboard showed no bias towards either side at 42 points a piece.
Then came the shift made possible by best-scoring Patriot Aimar Sabayo in tandem with John Cornito. The two came up with quick combinations that kept the baskets coming.
At the other end, The Lord’s resorting to too many passes in fast breaks did them no favours, and their usually productive three-point attempts that had worked fairly well in the first half were doomed at crunch time.
The Patriots fourth quarter surge was so empowering that their lead kept expanding, with IRB only managing nine points to their rival’s 23.
Nearly half of the Patriots score came from Sabayo, who used his good height and speed to often rip The Lord defence open. Jayson Mercado’s 10 points was the next best effort.
The Lord were served well by Monh Ratana (21 points) and Phanat Ouch (10).
The morning fixture between Ganzberg and NSK Dream turned into an offence-oriented affair. In the end, Ganzberg won the day 80-70 thanks to their three-minute blitz towards the end.
For the youthful all-Cambodian Dream, Ravuth Meas showed great ball-handling skills, invariably ending his moves with right assists. That kept Ganzberg on the hop, yet they found their own means to counter this threat through Sander David and his strong presence under the rim. It all boiled down to who could close out stronger, and Ganzberg charged home late but well, even as some desperate three-point shoots by Dream went nowhere.
David and Rafael Dionco came up with 19 points each for Ganzberg.
Cellcard Eagles were put on the grill by CCPL Heat in a low-scoring tie. The Heat won it 47-40, latching on to an eight-point second quarter advantage until the end.
The Eagles played hard and true in defence but were unable to score in attack. The Heat also suffered much the same plight. They could hardly reach the paint that was defended so stoutly by the Eagles 2-1-2 zone defence.
But a few fast breaks by national point guard Panha Suvann (22 points) worked around that problem midway through the contest.
Eagles lack of creativity in offence eventually brought their downfall despite the best efforts of Sean Looney (10 points) and Geoff Harry (7).
The tottering Post Buffaloes proved no match for the in-form Phnom Penh Dragons, who rattled away 70-55 in a late evening game. Interestingly, both teams showed up with a limited line-up of eight players each.
The Dragons hit the front in a trice as Leng Seng got going on fast breaks, while the Buffaloes could hardly find a way to crack the solid Dragons defence. Adam Noah (14 points) and Jay Rodden (21 points) managed to inject some life into the Buffaloes offence but, in the face of sustained Dragons pressure, their efforts were not adequate enough.
At the other end, Matsuki Nishikawa (15 points) was very effective playing the low post and the Dragons were kicking clear. Leng Seng top scored for Dragons with 20 as Jay Boolkin chipped in 14.
“The team played awesome today, despite some key players missing – a real team effort,” Dragons coach Michael Dibbern told the Post.
“Our transitions worked perfectly and on set offence we played some great moves from the posts.”