BEIRUT: Twelve games into the regular season, Champville finally suffered a loss Sunday, going down to Hoops Club 73-57 in the biggest upset of the season so far.
Hoops Club have had a poor season so far, but last season’s fourth best team – led by William Byrd and Calvin Cage – took control early and dominated the game.
Jay Youngblood did his best to rally the ailing league leaders but usual starlets Mazen Mneimneh and Miguel Martinez were unable to bring the inspiration that has seen Champville propelled to the top of the table.
Champville is now only one win ahead of Riyadi – whose weekend match was postponed – while Hoops jumps ahead of Antranik into sixth place.
A low scoring first quarter saw Cage and Byrd signal their intentions from the off, scoring 11 points between them to give Hoops a 15-12 lead after 10 minutes. Youngblood grabbed eight of Champville’s 12 and would continue to be Champville’s only shining light.
Byrd and Cage combined again in the second to open a seven-point lead after three minutes of the second quarter before Fadi al-Khatib roused himself to bring Champville back to within three points.
A last ditch three pointer from Cage saw Hoops take a half time lead of 36-30.
The six-point deficit held out in the third quarter as Byrd took his tally to 17 points while al-Khatib foraged for points.
Hoops took a 53-47 lead into the fourth quarter before stretching away into a vital win that puts relegation further back on Hoops’ horizon and opens out a title race that seemed to be heading in only one direction.
Sunday’s other game between Byblos and Sagesse was called off due to flooding on the Amchit court.
Mouttahed Tripoli against Hawch al-Oumara turned out to be Saturday’s only game with Mouttahed coming out on top 80-71, after the Riyadi versus Anibal Zahle match was called off.
Official reasons cited poor weather for the cancellation, but suspicions arose that Riyadi had pulled out because of injuries to Jean Abdul Nour and Ali Fakheridinne as well as the delayed arrival of former star Nate Johnson. Within minutes of the cancellation, messageboards were filled with people venting spleen about the club’s most powerful team riding roughshod over division rules.
Fourth place Sagesse have dispensed of their coach Alen Abaz after three straight defeats saw the Ghazir side’s title chances diminish after a promising result against Riyadi. Defeat to Antranik was the last straw for club president Talal Makdessi who brought in Lebanon coach Tab Baldwin as his replacement.