Final (12:00 PM-1:00 PM) Sunday, Jun 24, 2007
  1 2 O T
Zilzal (7-3-0) 27 25 7 59
Asr (8-2-0) 26 26 2 54

Zilzal moves to finals with overtime win Jun 28, 2007
by Zuhair Fancy  

When these teams met in the regular season, Asr overcame a 15-point halftime deficit and earned a hard fought win. This time Asr would hope to avoid the poor first half that saw them down by so much after 20 minutes. Asr would have to play this game without point guard Zuhair Kanji who was unavailable and his absence would be large on this game.

The game began with Bilal Forde and Zahir Kolia attacking the weak interior defense of Zilzal as they cut through the defense for some quick baskets. Ammer Askary responded and was able to keep Zilzal in the game early. With 9:31 left in the half, Asr was up 16-14 and both teams seemed to be slowing the pace down. With 2:12 left in the half, Asr was clinging to a 24-20 lead but their offensive rhythm was clearly gone. Zilzal managed to go on a 7-2 run for the rest of the half to take a 27-26 lead after 20 minutes. Askary led all scorers with 13 points for Zilzal while Asr was led by Kolia with 8 points and 5 rebounds and Forde with 7 points.

The second half started with both teams trading baskets but at the 15:30 mark, Kolia picked up an offensive foul and his arguing resulted in a technical foul giving him four fouls and forcing him to the bench. With Asr now missing one of their big guns, Abbas Alidina stepped up to hit a 3-pointer to give Asr a 34-33 lead with 13 minutes left. Asr got into trouble soon after as Justin Cleva picked up his fourth foul as well as Forde and Kolia each playing with four fouls. Despite the foul troubles that the team was having, Asr managed to build a 45-41 lead with 5:18 left in the game before Cleva fouled out. Asr managed to hold onto their lead as it was 47-45 with 3 minutes left in regulation. Askary hit a deep three-pointer to tie the game at 48 with just 2:38 left. The teams traded buckets and found themselves tied at 50 with just 1:30 left to play. Kristian Whittaker drew a foul with 44 seconds left and went to the free throw line for Asr but missed both shots. Anish Bhalla responded with a lay-up to give Zilzal a 52-50 lead with 16.9 seconds left and Zilzal called a timeout to set themselves up defensively. Asr set up a play but it not go a planned and it resulted in a loose ball that both teams grabbed but Asr retained possession off the jump ball arrow and with 8.7 seconds left called a timeout to reset themselves. The final play was a flurry of action as the initial shot from Asr missed and led to two put back attempts from Asr with the final one from Whittaker going in at the buzzer to force overtime. Zilzal argued that the clock had not started on time and that they were watching it the whole time which may have explained why no Zilzal player was crashing the boards but the officials agreed that there was no issue with the clock and this game would need overtime to decide a winner.

The overtime period was low scoring and had neither team hit a field goal as all points were scored on free throws. Zilzal had a 53-52 lead with 49.3 seconds left when Bhalla fouled Whittaker and sent him to the line for two free throws which he converted to give Asr a 54-53 lead; Bhalla also fouled out on the play. Askary came back and drew a foul from Forde on a three-point shot and he hit all three shots to give Zilzal a 56-54 lead; Forde picked up his fifth foul on the play fouled out. Asr was unable to get anything going the rest of the game and with every miss were forced to foul and hope Zilzal missed their free throws – which they did not. Zilzal won by a 59-54 score and move onto the finals to face Fatiha.

Askary was a one man show for Zilzal as he finished with 35 points and he shot 4 for 14 from the three-point area and 17 of 21 from the free throw line (including 6 for 7 from the line in overtime). Asr spread the scoring around with Forde finishing with 14 points while Kolia and Whittaker each finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Asr was strong on the glass as they out rebounded Zilzal by a ridiculous 36-17 tally. Yet their inability to slow down Askary or stay out of foul trouble is what did them in. A turning point may have been Kolia’s silly technical which gave him four fouls and forced him to the bench for an extended length of time during the second half.