Cedars bounce back with comfortable win

Lebanon will welcome back center Woods for their match with South Korea. (The Daily Star / stringer)

BEIRUT: Lebanon continued their recovery after a surprising loss to Taiwan B on the opening day of the annual Jones Cup tournament, as they registered their second consecutive win by dominating hosts Taiwan A 83-63. The Cedars entered the tournament – a tuneup event for the Asian Championship in the Philippines next August – with only one week of practice and without playing any exhibition games, as well as several absentees, notably American naturalized center Loren Woods, who will join the squad Wednesday.

Lebanon suffered a tough loss against the second Taiwanese team 70-66 but rallied back on the second day to beat Japan 70-66 thanks to 21 points from Jean Abdel-Nour and 18 points from Fadi al-Khatib.

Japan will join Lebanon in Group B of the Asian Championship.

The Cedars avenged their first loss with a brilliant performance on both ends, particularly in the second quarter where Lebanon outscored their opponents 23-8 after trailing 17-19 at the end of the first.

It was Taiwan who started the stronger racing into a 15-8 lead, but they were soon pegged back as Lebanon hit from beyond the arch four times in the first period to close the gap to only two going into the second. Ali Mahmoud was Lebanon’s best player early on with eight points including two triples.

Lebanon looked to have found their rhythm in the second. A strong defensive display managed to limit the East Asians to only eight points throughout the period, while 21-year-old Amir Saoud caught fire off the bench, netting 11 points alone in the second as Lebanon led by 40-27 at halftime.

Khatib continued in the third from where Saoud left in the second, as he showed his class to keep Lebanon ahead by 18.

However, Khatib was benched for the rest of the game after picking up his fourth personal foul, but newbie Ali Haidar hit from midrange, as Lebanon went into the fourth quarter 65-50 ahead.

Despite missing Woods, Ghassan Sarkis’ side had to play with power forwards Bashir Ammoury and Haidar under the basket, and although Taiwan’s American naturalized center Quincy Davis let his presence be felt in the paint, Lebanon managed to overcome their shortcomings and eased to an 83-63 victory.

Woods is expected to leave for Taiwan Tuesday after finishing his naturalization process. His presence will give Lebanon a different dynamic with his 218-cm frame.

Khatib top scored for Lebanon with 18 points and four rebounds in 20 minutes, while Mahmoud added 12 points. Mohammad Ibrahim, Saoud and Haidar added 11 points each, with the first grabbing eight rebounds and the latter seven rebounds.

Lebanon are now 2-1 in the standings as they lie in second place behind South Korea who remain undefeated at 3-0.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 09, 2013, on page 14.




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