Sabay Salty Crabs, narrowly beaten for the first time in a humdinger last week by the all-Cambodian Sela Meas, are up against punchbags of the competition HTPS Mike’s Burger Knights, who need divine intervention to turnaround their winless record at the Beeline Arena tomorrow when the round robin phase of the inaugural Cambodia Basketball Challenge comes to an end.
The seventh and the final week is all about advancing to the six-team post-season playoffs, with the Crabs, Raid-Alaxan FR and Sela Meas having already made the grade regardless of the outcome this weekend.
On paper and current form, the Crabs have nothing to fear from the Knights, who are resigned to elimination, but for Mobitel XG Warriors, Phnom Penh Dragons, CCPL Heat and Team Sharky, it is make or break time, with one side destined to see their campaign end tomorrow along with the Knights.
Having lost only one game in six, the Crabs have secured the first semifinal slot with the highest points and quotient rating. The Crabs have least worries of all against the struggling Knights.
The height and experience of national players Monh Ratana and Kim Vengoun may prove overpowering for their tardy rivals. Added to this is the presence of Sean Looney, making this trio the most formidable in the competition.
With star player Aimar Sabayo back in business, Raid-Alaxan will be keen on snatching the second of the two byes to the semifinals with a win against CCPL Heat. However, a loss may force a blanket finish involving two other winners of the day.
The Heat must devise a plan to stop the Alaxan-Raid twin towers of Sabayo and Nigel Doughan and their fast running game. National team player Kim Ran’s consistency in both offence and defence is crucial for the Heat.
There is an interesting tug-of-war developing between Raid-Alaxan and Sela Meas for the runner-up slot in the standings. Sela Meas take on Mobitel XG Warriors for whom it is a must-win to earn a playoff place and avoid a fight for quotient rating. The return of Fred Babido has worked wonders for the Warriors, who have blown hot and cold throughout the tournament.
For Sela Meas to finish clear second, they have to beat the Warriors and hope for a Raid-Alaxan defeat. If Both Sela Meas and Raid-Alaxan were to win, then Alaxan stand to gain due to a “win over the other system in the eliminations” clause, according to CBC organisers.
Meanwhile, it is a winner take all in the most exciting match-up of the day between Phnom Penh Dragons, who have struck good form, and Team Sharky, who seem to have lost a bit of theirs. A loss could well mean elimination for Team Sharky while the Dragons need to win to avoid quotient rating.
For one of the pre-tournament favourites, an unexpected dip in form after an amazing one-point win over Raid-Alaxan could be a troubling sign for Team Sharky. But the team has the strength to overcome such adversities through Curran Hendry’s size, Colin Meyn’s three point shooting, court generalship of Jeff Kane and Craig Bowman.
With three defeats in a row, Sharky have dropped to seventh in the standings. The key to their success lies in how best the all-American squad can exploit their height advantage.
There are good shooters in the Dragons side to ensure success, and a strategy of running and shooting sees Mark Babong as a vital link. Defence could be a source of concern, however, for the Dragons.
- Phnom Penh Dragons v Team Sharky 1pm
- Sabay Salty Crabs v HTPS Mike’s Burger Knights – 2:15pm
- Raid-Alaxan FR v CCPL Heat 3:30pm
- Sela Meas v Mobitel XG Warriors 4:45pm
To contact the reporter on this story: H S Manjunath at [email protected]