QATAR redeemed themselves by winning the gold medal. In the final, they defeated Jordan 78-70 at the Al Gharafa Indoor Hall last week.
One would find it hard to believe that this team had been in a shambles just three months ago, when the players deliberately fouled out of the FIBA Asia Championship in Wuhan, China. The fiasco brought important changes to the side.
Qatar are now the Gulf and Arab champions.
The final was keenly contested. Egged on by a vociferous home crowd, Qatari players never let go of the lead. They were ahead 20-13, 33-30 and 57-47 after the first three quarters. Qatar thus exacted revenge for their loss to the same opponents in the group stage.
The semifinal win over champions Egypt (75-72) seemed to have bolstered the players’ confidence.
Njimbo Tangi, drafted by the National Basketball Association side Minnesota Timberwolves a few months ago, proved to be the ace up Qatar’s sleeve. He was their top scorer with 27 points while Ali Turki and Ousseynou Ndiaye (11 each) gave him ample support.
At the other end, Rasheim Wright (22) was Jordan’s spearhead. But he was well-marked and hence could not rise to his usual form. Islam Abbas chipped in with (10).
Qatar’s Iraqi coach Kosai Hatem, who led Gharafa to the Heir Apparent’s and Emir’s Cup double last season, proved he possesses the golden touch. Under him, Qatar won both competitions that they took part in — the GCC Games in Bahrain and now Arab Games. But Hatem credited the players.
“My boys fared brilliantly when it mattered the most and that made things happen. They’re a bunch with great potential. Mansour Al Hader, who is just 21, was a key player. He’s one of our brightest prospects,” he said.
Qatar Basketball Federation chief Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who took charge in October, was pleased with the positive result. He congratulated the team.
“The players put up a brilliant show. I expected them to win the title and they did. This team will continue to make us proud. I wish them the best,” he said.
Egypt did not have to sweat much against Tunisia in the play-off, winning 88-71. The winners led 47-31 at half-time.
Lebanon won the women’s title while Egypt and Jordan finished second and third respectively.