AMMAN: Lebanon managed to overcome its earlier difficulties in training to beat Syria 98-69 in the opening day of the WABA qualifier in Amman.
With only nine players in their squad, some wondered if the team would fare well with no less than seven essential players absent, notably Ali Mahmoud and Jean Abdelnour.
However, this did not pose a major problem for Lebanon, who comfortably beat Syria, bringing them one step closer to securing a spot for the FIBA Asia Cup in Tokyo in September.
Firing five consecutive 3-pointers in the first quarter, current Sagesse player Elie Stephan put Lebanon in control after six minutes. The Cedars finished the first quarter up 27-18.
Lebanon’s legend and captain Fadi al-Khatib, who arrived in Amman just two hours before the game began, showed his range in the second quarter.
Lebanon continued to score, but Syria – led by veteran guard Michel Maadenli – succeeded to stay in touch, as both teams headed to the break with Lebanon ahead 46-33.
Lebanon’s head coach Ghassan Sarkis had only four players to rotate.
William Faris couldn’t play because his naturalization application was unsuccessful.
Yet, Lebanon didn’t look concerned. They controlled the court with an impressible tally of 51 rebounds, to finish the match with almost a 30 points difference (98-69).
Khatib had a double-double with 30 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Meanwhile, naturalized American Garnett Thompson, who played his first game for Lebanon, added 16 points and 8 rebounds, and Elie Stephan 19 points.
“The team played great chemistry wise and passing the ball. Ball circulation was a big weapon for us to put a lot of pressure on the Syria defense,” said Sarkis.
Lebanon will play Yemen next Tuesday at 4 p.m. (Beirut time).