Mainland beats Lebanon in final, retains ABC title


SHANGHAI, AFP

Mainland China’s Yao Ming and teammates were unrelenting Saturday in defending their Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) title against Lebanon, winning 97-63 to claim their second consecutive and 12th-ever regional title.

Tournament MVP Yao showed why NBA legend Bill Russell believes he has “the ability to change the way the game of basketball is played” with a supreme show of dunking, rebounding, shooting and defending against the Lebanese, who were held to just 10 points in the first quarter while mainland China pocketed 22 points at the Shanghai stadium here. Trailing 27-49 at half-time, Lebanon came out in the second half determined to close the gap. But the Chinese had their own ideas and wheeled out another star player, Wang Zhizhi of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, to make sure they retained the upper hand. Wang, the first and only Asian player in the NBA, took care of Lebanon’s Joe Vogel while the rest of his teammates concentrated on limiting Fadi El-Khatib’s effectiveness. By the end of the third quarter, China’s margin was 83-42.

Mainland China’s top scorer was Menk Batere with 17 points, followed closely by the event’s top rebounder Yao with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Lebanon’s El-Khatib had a game high 18 points, with Vogel adding 14.

China’s diving queen, multiple Olympic and world champion Fu Mingxia, was on hand to present the awards after the game. The ABC’s Dream Five players were Chinese’s Yao and Wang, Lebanon’s El-Khatib and Walid Domiati and Korea’s Seo Jang-Hoon. The most valuable coach award went to Lebanon’s John Neumann. Both China and Lebanon will represent Asia at the 2002 World Basketball Championship in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA by virtue of being the region’s top two teams.

In an earlier match, Lee Kyu-Sup scored the winning three-point shot with three seconds remaining in overtime to give South Korea a third-place finish with a 95-94 win over Syria.

Down early in the game and trailing for much of it, the Koreans battled back to take a slim lead late in the fourth quarter, but the feisty Syrians had a few fouls called in their favour as regulation time wound down.

Syria’s Omar Kassas went to the line for two shots with six seconds left, making one basket to tie the game at 80. Choo Seung-Gyun had his long shot at the buzzer just miss, and the teams were headed to overtime. Mohammed Imam and Michel Madanli kept Syria close in the extra period, but Lee Kyu-Sup’s last shot with three seconds left was good enough to seal the victory. Syria finished the tournament in fourth place. Seo Jang-Hoon led Korea with 27 points, which was equalled by Syria’s Imam. Choo finished with 24 points. Madanli led all scorers with 30 points. In other games played Saturday, Qatar managed to overcome Japan 74-65 to claim fifth spot even with high-flying star Yaseen Mahmoud grounded with a leg injury.

Japan, who opted to bring a group of younger players to the event, could not match the speed of Qatar down the stretch to end up in sixth position. Goto Masaki led his side with 13 points. Qatar’s Husam Ismail led all scorers with 21 points. India’s Perminder Singh and his teammates had seventh place sewn up after three quarters of their game against a young Chinese Taipei side, only to falter in the final period as the Chinese Taipei tied the game 79-79 at the final buzzer. Chinese Taipei won 92-90 in overtime to claim seventh spot.