Final (12:00 PM-1:00 PM) Sunday, Jan 28, 2007
  1 2 T
Asr (7-1-0) 24 28 52
Ma'un (0-8-0) 14 23 37

Experience Pays Off Jan 30, 2007
by Kashif Taqiuddin  

This first round match between Asr and Ma置n was projected to be a cake-walk for Asr. Zuhair Kanji was back in the line up for Asr which further dwindled the odds of the winless Ma置n pulling off its first victory.

The opening minutes had all the recipes for disaster. From the opening tip the taller and faster team of Asr raced its way to the basket to score an opening deuce. For Ma置n it wasn稚 as easy as they had difficulty getting through the taller defenders. Within minutes and six consecutive fast breaks they were up 12-2. The eyes on the scorekeepers indicated that they were in for a brutal game.

But that wasn稚 the case. Something turned on in the heads of the Ma置n players. Suddenly they became aggressive, daring even. They got tenacious on defense. Whatever it was Ma置n had the nerve to put a comeback together and get back into the game. Sufian Hamid led the charge and kept slicing his way to the rim and getting fouled in the process. His free throws brought them closer but several big baskets by Zain Jilani helped as well. Before Asr realized what was going on they were up by a mere point leading 13-12 halfway through the first half. And then. reality kicked in. Asr turned up the heat thanks mainly to Ahmir Butt who was ripping down rebounds and scoring on the opposition glass. With 2:19 left on the clock Asr had built a 20-12 lead prompting Ma置n to use its first timeout to stop the bleeding.

Following the stoppage, Asr extended its run to 11 points and were up 24-12. Fouls were getting Ma置n in trouble especially for Adil Riaz who picked up his fourth foul and was in jeopardy of exiting the game early. Before the half buzzer sounded Ma置n was able to score a basket to end the run trailing 24-14.

If there痴 one factor that can point to this lead by Asr it was rebounding. Ma置n was no where to be found near the glass. Asr ridiculously outboarded their opponents 26-4 in the first half!

The second half witnessed the two teams trading baskets. Asr had a 31-22 lead when Ma置n痴 youngest player Yasir Riaz added some spark to the game. Yasir first managed to get himself to the free throw line and successfully sank two baskets and then sank a surprising three-pointer following an Asr turnover. Just like that Ma置n was back in the game trailing 33-27 and called their second timeout following some beautiful hustle to grab a loose ball.

At this point I値l put the blame on any thoughts of an upset happening on Deklon Roberts. The man walks into the gym during the timeout and starts hooting when he saw the scoreboard. Maybe the exuberance showed by Deklon got to them but whatever happened it spelled the end for Ma置n.

Asr came tearing out of the gate and built their largest lead at 42-28. Ma置n looked stunned and dismayed. There was simply no final comeback to happen and Asr was finally able to coast to victory.

Ahmir Butt had a fantastic game on both ends of the floor finishing with 17 points and 14 boards and shooting 5-6 from the free throw line. Ahsan Raza and Zahir Kolia both managed to score 14 points but much recognition should also be given to Zuhair Kanji for his brilliant defense and passing abilities. Sufian Hamid valiantly led his team and finished with 11 points.

Things only get tougher for Asr now and they値l have to put all their skill together as they face a difficult challenge ahead against Zilzal.