Final (1:00 PM-2:00 PM) Sunday, Jun 22, 2008
  1 2 T
Qadr (8-1-0) 33 23 56
Tamjeed (7-3-0) 31 24 55

Qadr Faces a Cruel Twist of Fate? Jun 23, 2008
by Teepu Khawja  

This game had a lot of potential, pitting 1st place Qadr against the only team to hand them a defeat this season, Tamjeed. In that previous match-up Tamjeed rode Sanel’s 9 3-pointers to victory. To get here, Tamjeed “upset” 2nd place Zilzal in the semi-finals, taking their 1st lead of the game with 1:30 left. Qadr on the other hand literally escaped a loss to 4th seeded Fatiha after a buzzer beating rebound and putback by Branko.

For Qadr to win this game they had to make sure Darko put his stamp on the game and Andrew got hot from the outside, while limiting Sanel and Ibrahim’s production. The opposite had to be true for Tamjeed to get an easy victory. X-factor players would decide this game if it became a grind-out affair.

Both teams were hungry for victory as none, other than Sanel, had ever won an I-Slam league championship despite YEARS of competing. Correction, Ibrahim Baig was entering this game having just won his 1st championship in the earlier Scarborough finals match-up. And rather than being fatigued by his earlier game, Ibrahim seemed to have extra hop in his step from unloading the burden of past championship failures as he went in for an uncontested dunk off the tip, energizing his team and giving them a 2-0 lead (due to technical problems on the part of the organizer operating the camcorder, visual proof of this will not be available once the videos are posted).

From the opening minutes we could tell that neither team would have an easy victory. Since this was going to be a grind out affair, the Darko/Andrew and Sanel/Ibrahim tandems would likely cancel out. So who would be the X-factor? Tamjeed was up 9-6 with 14 minutes left in the half, and then 11-9 with 13:00 left after a 3-pt And 1 play by Sadmir who was looking to be aggressive against his defender. Qadr took its first lead after a base line jumper by Andrew with 12 minutes left in the half. Consecutive 3-pointers by Camran and Sanel gave Tamjeed back the lead with 11 minutes left in the half. After hitting 1 of 2 free throws, Andrew tied the game at 17-17 with 10 minutes left.

What a ridiculously entertaining first 10 minutes! Tamjeed was doing a great job on Darko, limiting him on rebounds until he got his first one with 8:30 minutes left in the half. Enter Qadr’s Najib who seemed to want to claim the X-factor title for himself as he scored 2 consecutive baskets to give his team the 23-20 lead with 7:30 left in the half. Not to be outdone by his opposite supporting player, Tamjeed’s Ziyad made a statement drive to the basket, at the heart of the defense, and got the And 1 call to bring his team to within 30-25 with 3 minutes to go in the half. Sanel later did his part by nailing a 3 to bring his team within 31-30 with 1 minute to go.

The half ended with Qadr up 33-31 behind Darko’s 12 points and 4 rebounds. Sadmir and Andrew also both chipped in 7 points apiece. Notable for Qadr was that Andrew was 0-3 from behind the 3-pt arc while Darko was 2-5 from the free throw line. Tamjeed was lead by Ibrahim’s 10 points and Sanel’s 9 points. Most notable for Tamjeed was that Sanel was 3-7 from behind the 3-pt arc and hitting his final 2 attempts.

The 2nd half started with Sadmir continuing to pick his spots to be aggressive (or more likely picking his defender), driving for a quick And-1 play, but missing the ensuing free throw. Another Sadmir drive put his team up 42-34 with 17 minutes left in the game. Up next was a 4-point play by Sanel, the second straight week that they have had one. Sanel was fouled at the 16:05 mark and hit his free throw to bring his team to within 42-38; of note, despite his earlier misses, Sanel was now 3 of his last 3 attempts from the 3-pt line which meant trouble for Qadr.

With 13:45 left in the game, Qadr overplayed Sanel at the 3-point line allowing him to take an easy dribble in for a free throw line jumper to give him his first 2-point field goal of the game and bring his team back to a 42-42 tie. After a Qadr basket, Wayne again tied the game at 44 on 2 free throws and 12:30 remaining. With 9:30 in the game, Qadr went up 50-46 on Andrew’s 1st basket of the 2nd half. Qadr was looking to pull away in the last quarter of the game; they extended their lead to 54-46 with 5:25 to play after Samer hit 1 of 2 free throws and an And 1 play by Andrew.

Quiet in the 2nd half up to this point was Tamjeed’s Ibrahim Baig. After scoring 10 first half points he didn’t have an field goals in the 2nd half until a 3 pointer with 2:15 left that that made it a 54-50 game for Qadr and brought it back to stop-time in the final minutes. A potentially back-breaking sequence shortly thereafter when Andrew misses a free throw with his team up 56-50 with 0:47 left and out of stop-time range; Darko rebunds the miss but has it stripped by Camran who then inexplicably throws it right to Sadmir. For observers of the game, they were left to wonder why Andrew was allowed to walk to the line and take his time shooting free throws outside of the stop-time range despite Tamjeed having 2 timeouts to use in the final minute. That was likely more perplexing than the actual turnover to Sadmir.

This is where Qadr looked to possibly face a cruel twist of fate. Things were starting to look eerily similar to their game last week against Fatiha. In the final minute of that game Sadmir also had a key steal in the final minute, which he converted for a lay-up. In this game however, he was fouled and proceeded to miss both free throws under the pressure. After 2 free throws by Wayne, Ibrahim was able to hit another 3-pointer to bring his team to within 56-55 with 10 seconds left. Again, eerily similar to last week’s game when Sadmir brings up the ball and is fouled with 7 seconds to play. Unlike last week, this time it was Qadr at the line to seal the game on free throws. And just like last week, BOTH free throws were missed with Sadmir badly air-balling the 2nd free throw under the chants of the crowd. So now, like last week, the opposing team had a chance to win the game with 7 seconds to play. Would Qadr this time be the victim of a last second shot? The ball was inbounded to Sanel who immediately hushed the crowd as they followed the arc of his 3-poiint shot; the ball missed and was rebounded by Camran who missed the jumper at the buzzer! It seemed that Qadr was meant to win it all this season!

A great game by both teams as Qadr won its first ever championship after years of pursuit. Tamjeed was left to wonder about what could have been. Second-guessing will surely follow as they analyze what happened in the final minute including not calling their final timeout to design a play for those ending 7 seconds. But bottom line is that Qadr caught a bit of luck too (they may say it was primarily due to their defence) as, despite both putting up a respectable 18 points apiece, Tamjeed’s Ibrahim was unable to exert himself in the 2nd half aside from the last minute 3’s, and that Sanel missed his last 6 3-pointers after looking like he was on his way to replicate his 9 3-pt effort from their last meeting. Despite not getting to the line in the 2nd half, Darko was awarded the MVP for his work on the defensive end, particularly the rebounding side.