The Angkor Beer Cambodian Basketball League got off to a rip-roaring start at its new home in the Olympic Stadium’s indoor hall on Saturday with the opening game of the season producing an 85-81 overtime win for CCPL Warriors over NSK Dream, the youngest squad in the 10-team competition.
In the day’s second fixture, solid preseason prep worked wonders for Mekong Tigers in their impressive 87-61 win over Phnom Penh Dragons, who were forced to field a weaker line-up due to the absence of three key players.
When the Warriors and NSK Dream hit the newly laid wooden floor for the opener, the arena was filled with an air of sentimentality – big-time basketball taking center stage in this iconic venue built in the early ’60s.
Bench strength and experience saw the Warriors take the momentum early over their youthful rivals. Filipino Chris Bolado showed the way for the Warriors, who came out marginally better in the high-scoring first quarter.
Bolado’s compatriot Vince Delmundo, making his first appearance in the league, stamped his mark in the second quarter with some excellent long-range baskets, draining several three pointers to earn a 36-32 half-time lead for the Warriors.
The third quarter saw NSK Dream push back hard enough to take a one-point lead at 56-57 and set up a thrilling final dash.
With just 22 seconds to go it was all square at 71. Phorn Rithysak, who had an excellent chance to wrap up the game for NSK Dream from the free-throw line, missed both his shots.
That drove the finish to a five-minute extra time period, during which both sides were more or less even until Delmundo’s four free throws changed the course of the contest in favour of the Warriors.
The battle-ready Mekong Tigers showed up with their best line-up, unlike their rivals, who missed out on a few vital cogs in their attacking machine. The absence of Ben Laird, Kelvin Chan and Chhim Chandara hurt the Dragons no end.
The Tigers pounced on the Dragons from the get-go, with Pheng Darath excelling at the three-point line. He had a total of six for the game but his three in the first quarter alone were enough to send the Dragons a chilling message.
The Dragons’ desperate response was to switch to 3-2 zone defence, leaving more open space for the Tigers inside the paint.
With the Tigers’ defence standing tight, the Dragons found outside baskets hard to come by. That’s an area of expertise Laird and Chan normally brought to the side and that’s where it cost the Dragons the most.
The Tigers’ Meas Ravuth and Sok Samnang worked out some nice combinations to ensure that the flow was smooth all the way.
CCPL Warriors 85 (Sovann Panha 20, Vince Delmundo 29 points)
NSK Dream 81 (Phorn Rithysak 21, Sok Pagna 18)
Mekong Tigers 87 (Pheng Darath 24, Seath Socheat 15)
Phnom Penh Dragons: 67 (Jordan Bergren 16, Leng Seng,, Chhim Taingyou 12)