There were thrills aplenty but hardly any surprises in the inaugural Cambodian Basketball League’s quarter-final play-offs at the Beeline Arena on Saturday.
Round robin results were more or less reconfirmed as Alaxan FR Patriots, IRB The Lord, Sela Meas and CCPL Heat duly made it to the last four.
Leading the charge was the unbeaten Patriots, who stretched their winning streak well past a dozen games after clipping Cellcard Eagles’ wings 64-40.
On Tuesday, the Patriots will take on CCPL Heat in the first semi-final, marked for a 7:30pm start. Heat made a confident advance after scoring 50-45 win over the Phnom Penh Dragons.
In the second semi-finals on Wednesday, IRB The Lord will clash with Sela Meas. Just a regulation basket separated The Lord from the Extra Joss Warriors at 55-53 on Saturday, the winner virtually sunk in the last second of the game.
Sela Meas, on the other hand, proved far more formidable against Pate 310 in a 68-56 victory, driving home a clear message that their narrow victory in the league season was no flash in the pan.
Despite taking the court without their key player, Geoff Harry, the Eagles managed to keep the game on an even keel during the first half. But in the third and fourth quarters, the Eagles proved vulnerable to the Patriots’ coordinated attacks.
While Don Buer was ticking quick baskets for the Eagles, his team-mates were missing too many shots to keep the scores tight and the Patriots, who had found the Eagles’ defence and size hard to handle in the initial stages, comfortably drawing away towards the finish.
A dramatic incident before the start of The Lord versus Warriors match forced a 30 minute delay. Rindra Norodom suffered a heavy fall during warm-up and broke his arm, much to The Lord’s collective shock. On the top of this, they were without their star player Kim Vengngoun.
Overcoming these setbacks, The Lord managed a seven-point cushion at the end of the third quarter. But a Warriors fightback in the fourth quarter through Fred Babida and Ley Denetrosa brought the scores level at 53. That was when The Lord beat the clock with Borey under the rim tipping in an offensive rebound.
Looking to avenge their league season defeat, Pate did well to stay with Sela Meas after dominating the first quarter. But by the final session, Pate were rapidly losing pace and allowed Sela Meas to outplay them.
In the last game of the day, the Heat put the Dragons to sleep just the way they had done in the pre-season tune-up and then in the league clash.
Apparently more stressed than their rivals by the threat of a knockout, the usually high-scoring Dragons team noticeably struggled with the offence. While Sovann Panha and Kim Ran were cutting in with great verve to keep the Heat ahead on momentum, most of the Dragons drive-ins were ending up on the foul-line.
But barely scoring 25 per cent on their free throws, the Dragons trio of Jay Booklin, Leng Seng and Ben Laird could hardly make an impact on the result.