True to their red hot form and high expectations, Alaxan FR Patriots clinched the inaugural Cambodian Basketball League Championship after beating IRB The Lord 63-54 in the final played before a packed Beeline Arena on Saturday.
The Patriots picked up championship gold medals along with a prize money of $1,000 on the top of a glittering 2013 CBL Cup. As runners-up, The Lord were presented with silver medals and $500.
In the third place play-off before the final, Sela Meas defeated CCPL Heat 65-58.
When the two most fancied sides took the court for the title showdown there was obvious tension in both camps. It took some time for both teams to shake off those early jitters.
Patriots coach Chris Borja sent out a strong five to start – Dexter Arcenas, Aimar Sabayo, Nigel Doughan, Jeff Kane and Curran Hendry.
At the other end, The Lord had to do without their key player Kim Vengngoun besides losing the services of Norodom Rindra, who was injured during the quarter-finals.
In the initial stages, the Patriots were really put through the hoops, the kind of pressure they had never felt throughout the season. The Patriots’ corner was getting tighter all the time in the first quarter with many turnovers and lost rebounds.
The Lord on the other hand had never played a better first half in the entire season. SEA Games-bound Ouch Phanat produced a string of good jump shots for The Lord and in the second quarter, Yin Han started finding many offensive rebounds.
For the Patriots, relief in the first half came through Arcenas, who managed to keep the score rolling even in the face of intense pressure. When the second quarter, full of high level moves, ended the teams were all square at 39.
The third quarter turned out to be the least productive for both sides. Neither could break into double figures.
When it came to the crunch, the Patriots were finding The Lord’s zone defence too tight to break. Fortunately for the ultimate champions, The Lord were battling their own demons, stuck as they were scoreless, the result of missing many easy shots.
The decisive winning turn for the Patriots came in money time with John Cornito and Aimar Sabayo making that crucial difference.
Befittingly, the season’s best performer for the Patriots, Sabayo, closed out the game with a dunk after a fast break. They ran out worthy champions, having tasted nothing but success in the 12-team competition.
The end of the season awards function was attended among others by Cambodian Basketball Federation President San Borat, secretary-general Chy Sabath, CBL manager Michael Dibbern and a representative from Western Union, the main sponsors of the league along with Coca-Cola.