September 22, 2013

Foolad Mahan (Iran) win 2013 FIBA Asia Champions Cup; India's ONGC end 8th


It was an all Middle Eastern finale between a club from Iran and a club from Qatar, hosted by the city of Amman in Jordan. And in the end, the 24th FIBA Asia Champions Cup title was lifted by Iran's Foolad Mahan, who made a strong fourth-quarter run to break a close tie and defeat Qatar's Al Rayyan 84-74. The FIBA Asia Champions Cup pitted together nine of the leading club sides from nine different Asian countries. Uttarakhand'd ONGC - who represented India - had a tournament to forget, losing all six of their games to end at 8th place.

On the final on Saturday in Amman, Foolad Mahan was led by the trustworthy duo of Mahdi Kamrani (21 points) and Hamed Haddadi (20 points, 14 rebounds), who was coming off an MVP performance at the FIBA Asia Championship. Haddadi kept up his dominant play and the dominance of Iran in Asian tournaments as Foolad Mahan came back from trailing by five points at the end of the third period to posting a 10 point victory. Slovenian Sani Becirovic added 19 for the winning side.

Al Rayyan, who seemed to be in charge of things after a strong third period, couldn't match Mahan's intensity in the decisive final period. Naturalized American Boney Watson had 27 points in a losing effort while Yasseen Musa added 18.

On the same day as the finals, local Jordanian side ASU blew past Al Hala of Bahrain en route to a 107-76 victory to secure the bronze medal. The high-scoring effort by ASU was led by Ahmad Alhamarsheh (29), Wesam Al Sous (20), and Ayman Idais (19). Import player Rasheim Wright had 26 points to lead Al Hala.

On Friday, eventual winners Foolad Mahan had their way against Al Hala, dominating them with a 121-73 victory. Joshua Asselin had 21 points to lead Foolad while Kamrani added 20, who sped past in the second half of the game after a close first. In the second semi-final, hosts ASU fell to Al Rayyan in a close contest, 71-67. Boney Watson was unstoppable for Rayyan, leading all scorers with 27 points.

The 24th installment of the FIBA Asia Champions Cup featured teams mostly from the Middle Eastern region, and the only outsiders were ONGC - representing South Asia - and Kazakhstan's BC Capchagay, from the Central Asian region. ONGC and Capchagay were grouped together in Group B, along with Al Rayyan and Iraq's Duhok. The group was were missing a side from Philippines, and with only four members in the group, all teams were guaranteed a spot in the Quarter-Final and a top eight finish.

ONGC sent a 12-member squad - led by coach Durgesh Bhatia - and featuring Indian internationals Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Amrit Pal Singh, and Yadwinder Singh, along with savvy veterans like Mohit Bhandari, Trideep Rai, Sridhar Shanmugum, and Murali Krishna.

ONGC's first game at the contest was against Capchagay. After a close first quarter, Capchagay pulled away with a strong performance in the second period and ONGC were left to play catch-up soon after. Despite balanced scoring performances by Amrit Pal (20), Bhriguvanshi (19), and Rai (18), ONGC's comeback attempt failed as they lost the contest 79-72. Vsevolod Fadeikin of Capchagay led all scorers with 22.

ONGC started strong once again in their second game against Duhok, but once more, couldn't maintain the momentum. They only trailed by six at halftime, but dominating performances by Duhok's imports Ronald Traylor Jr. (28) and Ricardo Marsh (19) led the Iraqi side to an eventually comfortable 99-70 win. Bhriguvanshi led ONGC with a valiant 26 point performance.

ONGC didn't stand a chance in their final group game versus eventual semi-finalists Al Rayyan. Al Rayyan played strong defense and were led by Alvin Mofunanya's 16 points in the offensive end to defeat ONGC 85-58, a performance that included holding down the Indian side to just seven points in the opening quarter. Amrit Pal had finished with 16 points for the losing side.

Finishing bottom of their group, ONGC were drawn in the Quarter-Final against the top finishers of Group A, Foolad Mahan. The tournament-winners had no troubled blowing past ONGC to a 104-56 win. Kamrani (20), Asselin (20), and Becirovic (16) helped Foolad's multi-pronged attack as the Iranians dominated each quarter on both ends of the floor. Bhriguvanshi (20) and Amrit Pal (17) were again ONGC's leading scorers.

The Indian side were now relegated to contest for the 5-8th place playoffs. They fought in a rematch against Duhok first, but once again, the Iraqi side's imports were too much for ONGC to handle. Marsh (29) and Taylor (26) were unstoppable, but ONGC stayed close throughout the contest, and took the lead at halftime. ONGC stretched their advantage to five at the end of the third quarter, but a strong defensive finish by Duhok held ONGC to just 12 points in the final period. Duhok won 85-82, overcoming impressive outings by Amrit Pal (26) and Rai (22) in the process.

ONGC's final game was another rematch, this time against Kazakh side BC Capchagay. Capchagay started strong to take an eight point advantage in the first period and then never looked back. Bhriguvanshi had a tournament-best 32 points of all Indian players, but it wasn't enough as ONGC fell to a 101-74 defeat. Amrit Pal added 17 for ONGC. Capchagay were led by MR Adamu (21), Daniil Seleznyov (16), Vsevolod Fadeikin (16).

Going 0-6 in the championship, ONGC finished the tournament at 8th place. It was certainly not pretty and a lot more weaknesses were exposed of the Indian players against stronger mostly Middle-Eastern teams. Additionally, ONGC were amongst the only sides in the tournament without foreign imports or naturalized players, and couldn't keep up with their higher quality opponents.

Still, the experience could prove valuable, especially for young Center Amrit Pal Singh, who continued his improvement and continued to take strides in becoming India's best big man. Amrit Pal scored 17.7 points per game, good enough for second best in his team, and was one of the tournament's top rebounders, grabbing 10.2 boards per contest. Bhriguvanshi led ONGC in the scoring department with 19.3 ppg.

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