Leaders Riyadi overcame an early scare to achieve their 10th successive league victory, beating UBA 97-71 in round three of the group stage of the Lebanese Basketball League Friday at an empty Manara. Riyadi fans were slammed with a three-game ban following the scuffle that engulfed their match against Sagesse two weeks ago, which also led to a five-game ban for point guard Ali Mahmoud and three-game ban for Sagesse’s Terrell Stoglin.
Riyadi were also missing veteran talisman Ismael Ahmad through injury, but that was hardly a problem for the yellow side who have been in red-hot form recently. Although they trailed 37-32 at halftime, Riyadi soon showed their superiority to lead by double digits in the fourth period.
UBA also played the match without injured duo Bosnian center Ratko Varda and Mazen Mneimneh, and it’s worth mentioning that neither teams had significant motivation for this game. Riyadi have already secured top spot with a 16-1 record, while UBA have wrapped up second place in Group B at 10-7 with three rounds to go.
The action continues Saturday when Homenetmen visit Mouttahed at Tripoli in a crucial game for both teams, with the race for third place in Group A still alive.
The Tripoli side are currently in third place at 6-10, one game ahead of Homenetmen.
Round three concludes Sunday when Champville visit Sagesse at Ghazir in Group B.
American star forward Deshawn Sims is expected to make his debut for Champville against his former team, as the guests are still battling for second spot with Tadamon.
Meanwhile, Sagesse have all but secured top spot but they will seek to a grab a morale-boosting victory after losing to Tadamon last week.
Elsewhere, Riyadi’s power forward Ali Haidar moved to the Slovenian top league, joining Sencur Gorenjska on a two-month loan deal in an attempt to regain match fitness.
Haidar has been sidelined for three months after undergoing surgery to repair a leg injury, with Riyadi opting not to register him this season because of the “elite list” rule which allows every team to have five players from the 22-players list.
But in attempt in stay fit, Haidar has joined the Slovenian side for only two months with a view to rejoining Riyadi next season.
His new team is ranked seventh in the Slovenian league and are bidding to qualify for the playoffs.
This step could also be vital for Haidar’s chances of making the senior national team ahead of the upcoming Asian Championship, which serves as a qualifying tournament for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Haidar is the third player from Lebanon to play in Europe after Rony Seikaly’s spell with Spanish giants Barcelona in 2001, and Fadi al-Khatib’s 2008 stint with Cherkaski Mavpy in the Ukrainian league.