Final (11:00 AM-12:00 PM) Sunday, Jul 2, 2006
  1 2 T
Asr (4-5-1) 31 29 60
Ikhlas (6-2-1) 33 29 62

Decided by the bounce of the ball Jul 4, 2006
by Teepu Khawja  

This was a rematch of last season’s semi-final game which Ikhlas won by just 5 points despite Asr missing two of their main players. When they met in the regular season, Ikhlas won by a 47-40 score but both teams were missing key players. Ikhlas was without guard Sherif Shehata while Asr was missing forward Abbas Alidina. Ahsan Reza had a big game with 20 points and 10 rebounds while Jamshaid Hashmi finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds while playing with a separated shoulder.

In the preview of this game we said that Asr has been strong in the playoffs since activating Teepu Khawja off injured reserve with his veteran leadership helping to stabilize the Asr backcourt. In this game Ikhlas would need to hit their shots early to extend the Asr defense and give Hashmi more room to work with down low. They'll also need Emmanuel Ankrah to have a big game on the boards. Asr would need to protect the ball, use their size to their advantage, and keep their emotions in check will be key as any foolish fouls or technicals will put their key players on the bench early.

Both teams must have read the playoff previews because emotions and turnovers were kept in check the entire game. This was a hard fought battle in which Asr did use its size and Ikhlas did use its shooting touch. In the first half Ikhlas’ Sanel was 1-4 from behind the arc and Sherif was 3-4 from behind the 3-pt arc. For Asr Ahsan Raza powered himself down low to 6 points, Ahmir Butt dropped 10 points and 4 rebounds, and Reza scored 8 points and 6 rebounds. Both teams played out their game plans to perfection as Ikhlas lead at half by a score of 33-31.

In the 2nd half, Ikhlas managed to ride a wave of hot shooting to start pulling away, but Asr settled down and chipped away at their lead bringing the game back in line. Both teams continued executing their strategies to near perfection. Asr managed to take their first lead since early in the 1st half with a 58-57 score with only 2:49 remaining in the game. Sanel than hit a clutch 3-pt shot to put Ikhlas back up 60-58. Rather than losing their composure, Asr played their strategy and worked the ball into Ahsan Raza who was quickly fouled by Ikhlas; Asr’s style of play had managed to get them to shoot bonus shots with over 4 minutes remaining in the game. Ahsan coolly hit both free throws tying the game at 60.

It was obvious that Ikhlas had decided to play out the final 30 seconds of the tie game and go for the final shot. Asr tried its best to play aggressive defense and cause the turnover. With 10 seconds to play and the ball in Sherif’s hands, he dribbled down his man and hit a jumper (which bounced around the from above the FT line with 4 hands in his face to win the game for his team at the buzzer.

Nine times out of ten, the power game style of play wins out over the finesse game as eventually the shots stop dropping. This was that game when the shots didn’t stop falling. Despite the heartbreaking loss, Asr couldn’t hang their heads as they played extremely well and knew the game was decided by a kind bounce of the ball on the rim. What can you do when Sherif hits a ridiculous 6-7 from behind the 3-pt arc and Sanel throws in 4-9 from behind the 3-pt arc as well?