BEIRUT: Sagesse’s pursuit of a first Lebanese Basketball League title in a decade was off to a bright start Friday as they beat Amchit 83-78 in the league’s opening round. The Lebanese basketball fans were treated to a master class at the game in Amchit, with both teams displaying their credentials as top favorites for the league title.
Sagesse started strong thanks to three 3-pointers from shooting guard Elie Stephan, as the visitors led 11-5 after just three minutes.
But Karl Sarkis, who moved with his father Ghassan Sarkis and several other players from Champville to Amchit in a blockbuster move last summer, hit back in the same fashion, as Amchit brought the score to within one point.
It continued to rain 3s, as Rustom closed the gap for Sagesse to a single point. But Pharis hit again from beyond the arc, as Amchit ended the first quarter in their favor 26-22.
Both teams exchanged baskets in the first minutes of the second with Fadi al-Khatib and American forward Jeremiah Massey finding their way to the rim, as Amchit led 32-27.
But an impressive dunk from American Chris Daniels picked up the momentum for Sagesse as they turned the style after scoring six straight points to lead 39-38 at halftime.
Things remained tight in the third before Stephan banked another 3-pointer to fire Sagesse ahead 43-40.
But former Real Madrid star Massey hit back with a triple, followed by four consecutive points from his teammate Khatib, who began to impose his rhythm as Amchit led 50-47 midway through the third.
Sagesse’s backcourt continued to impress despite the absence of the traditional foreign scorer and Elie Rustom’s being sent to the bench for foul trouble. But Akl closed the gap to one point before Charles Thomas fired a 3-pointer to give Sagesse the lead 52-50.
Stephan brought his tally to 22 points before the end of the third after he made the most of a brilliant pass by big man Daniels.
It seemed everything was going Sagesse’s way: Thomas scored a layup, as Sarkis had to call for a timeout with Sagesse extending their lead to seven points at only a few seconds left in the third. Massey then nailed a 3-pointer to keep his side in contention at 57-61 heading into the fourth.
The home side were not done, as a 7-0 run gave Amchit the lead again 65-61, before Thomas answered with an easy layup to claw the gap to two points.
It was 72 all with three minutes left and then, with time expiring, Thomas missed two valuable free throws and he was made to pay after Pharis scored from in the paint to give Amchit a 74-72 lead.
But Daniels was unstoppable in the lane, and he managed to score with a hook shot to level the tally at 74 all with less than two minutes left.
Back to the court after missing most of the third, Rustom scored from a neat drive to give Sagesse a one-point lead.
A frantic end saw Joey Accaoui bank a 3-pointer for Amchit, before Thomas replied with another to give Sagesse a 79-78 lead with 32 seconds left, and a timeout by Sarkis was called.
Massey’s missed jumper saw Akl at the free-throw line but he failed to convert any of his shots. Akl made up by grabbing the offensive rebound, giving Sagesse the chance to extend their lead.
Daniels too was sent to the free-throw and this time he converted to give Sagesse a 81-78 lead with less than 10 seconds left.
Accaoui tried to level the score but his attempt was far from successful, as Stephan scored another two free throws to secure a narrow 83-78 win for Sagesse.
Daniels led the scoring for Sagesse with 27 points and 15 rebounds, while Stephan added 25 points and Thomas added 16 points.
Massey was the top scorer for Amchit with 27 points and nine rebounds, while Khatib had 20 points.
Elsewhere, Mouttahed kicked off their campaign with an easy 104-74 victory against Bejjeh at Tripoli.