As Lebanon defeated Gilas Pilipinas, 85-81, on Friday in the 2023 Fiba World Cup Asian qualifications at Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Zouk Mikael, WAEL Arakji of the Lebanese Cedars reminded everyone why he is the Fiba Asia Cup MVP.
The nimble guard made the game-winning free throws after Scottie Thompson was fouled with 57.3 seconds still to go, then recovered the ball after Kai Sotto blocked a shot with 16.3 seconds left to make it an 83-78 contest.
The Cedars were headed by the hero of Lebanon’s unexpected runner-up performance at the most recent Fiba Asia Cup, who scored 24 points on 10-of-11 free throw attempts, including the final pair with 5.3 seconds, much to the pleasure of the home fans.
The Fiba World Cup qualifying debut of Jordan Clarkson, who led the Philippines with 27 points, seven assists, and six rebounds as the naturalized player for Gilas, was marred by Lebanon’s challenging home stand.
Nine of those errors occurred in the key second quarter, which put an end to the Filipinos’ explosive start and gave Lebanon the opportunity to take the lead and carry the game into the second half.
With 5:49 remaining, Kiefer Ravena’s split free throw gave the Philippines a 75-71 lead, but the Cedars were simply too aggressive on the offensive glass to earn themselves 13 second-chance points and maintain the back-and-forth battle before Arakji gained control in the closing seconds.
Due to its loss, Gilas now has a 2-3 record in Group E, and on Monday at the Mall of Asia Arena, it will try to exact its revenge on Saudi Arabia.
For the Cedars, who advanced to 4-1, Amir Saoud scored 17 points on 3-of-9 shooting from long range, and Ali Haidar dominated his way to 10 points, nine rebounds, and four assists.
Scores at the end of the match
LEBANON with 85
Individual scores – Arakji 24, Saoud 17, Haidar 10, Gyokchan 9, Zeinoun 7, Arledge 6, Chamoun 3, Mansour 3, Ezzedine 3, Mezher 3
PHILIPPINES with 81
Individual scores – Clarkson 27, Ramos 18, Aguilar 11, Sotto 10, Thompson 4, Newsome 3, K. Ravena 3, Malonzo 3, T. Ravena 2, Tamayo 0, Parks 0, Oftana 0
Scores per quarter
22-25, 49-47, 68-63, 85-81
Game win goes to the Lebanese Cedars.