Champville beat Anibal to the title

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Champville defeated Anibal Zahle 63-59 Sunday to collect the Lebanese Basketball League title for the first time in their brief history. Anibal’s first trip to the finals ended in despair, as they lost 3-1 for the series.

Entering Sunday’s game, Champville sat on the cusp of history, as victory would see them lift the Lebanese basketball title for the first time since their inception. Anibal had other ideas though, and a win for the Zahle team would have prolonged the series and treated fans to a deciding Game 5.

As ever, the Zahle fans were in full voice, and it was imperative that they act as the sixth man if Anibal were to stand a chance. It was the guests though who made an auspicious start, with Marcus Haislip maintaining his devastating final four form. The ex-NBA player had nine points in the first quarter with lethal perimeter shooting. Equally effective was the versatile Fadi al-Khatib, who was brandishing his full package, contributing on the offensive end, as well as stifling Anibal on defense. With l.6 seconds remaining, Leroy Hurd cut the lead to six with a timely jumper, which saw the quarter end 24-18 in Champville’s favor.

What followed was the dourest of second quarters as both teams scored a combined total of 19 points. Champville’s usually stellar 3-point shooting abandoned them in the second, as Elie Stephan, Haislip and Khatib missed a bucket load of open looks. Anibal were equally miserable, as Jay Youngblood’s isolations were beginning to have an adverse effect, with Champville doubling up on every occasion and forcing the ball out of the mercurial guard’s hands. The rest of the Anibal players failed to capitalize on Youngblood’s spacing and were dreadful from the field. The buzzer eventually arrived, closing the curtain on an atrocious quarter.

Anibal coach Miodrag Perisic never shies away from a confrontation, and his team was likely accosted with a ferocious halftime talk by the impetuous Serbian.

After the interval, Anibal took to the third quarter aggressively and were at the races once again. Crippling defense, supplemented by Youngbllood’s insatiable appetite to steal the ball, saw the Zahle team get into the open court and punish Champville in transition.

The low scoring continued from both teams, though, as play was erratic and disjointed. Turnovers and dire shooting prevented either side from pulling away.

Deep into the quarter, Khatib stole the ball with the opportunity to extend the lead to three, after an earlier steal had ended in a driving layup. The second steal would produce an opposite result,and as he glided by the stranded Youngblood with the rim seemingly at his knees, Khatib was whistled for traveling. The call caused uproar among the Champville bench, with Khatib sarcastically applauding the referee’s ostensibly hashed decision.

Replays showed the Champville star taking no fewer than four steps prior to his basket. The quarter ended 48-47 for Champville.

Sam Hoskin offered Champville a much needed boost, with his 22 points and nine rebounds, and the team used his effort to surge to an early five-point lead at the start of the fourth.

Anibal were looking increasingly sloppy, and their failure to execute was beginning to take its toll. Unlike most of the series, Game 4 witnessed Champville dominating the rebounding, as Haislip, Hoskins and Khatib spearheaded the team’s second chance points. Anibal were perilously close to being cut adrift, and vital 3-pointers from Youngblood and Ghalib Rida saw them go up by one.

Khatib (20 pts, 9 reb, 5 ass, 2 stls) and Champville would not be denied though, as they quickly restored the lead to six. Four points down with a minute left, Rida missed an uncontested layup, and in the process condemned his team to defeat. Anibal were ragged and slack all night, and memories of what could have been will accompany them for the entirety of the offseason.

The final buzzer sparked wild celebrations for Champville, as their Game 4 victory spelled the first of what could be many Lebanese titles. Their success brings an end to a Riyadi-Sagesse monopoly which had endured for the better part of a decade.

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