Wounded Cham­pville stay on course for ti­tle tilt

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - SPORTS -

BEIRUT: Cham­pville’s ti­tle cre­den­tials might have come into ques­tion af­ter an early loss to Riyadi, but there were sev­eral mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors in their nar­row de­feat to the Beirut gi­ants.

For starters, Fadi al-Khatib, who achieved triple-dou­bles in his open­ing two games, fin­ished with just five points, six re­bounds and four as­sists this time.

The lo­cal leg­end, who at 38 is in the au­tumn of his glit­ter­ing ca­reer, has rein­vented his game to com­pen­sate for his ad­vanc­ing years.

Gone are the days of play­ing down­hill, where Khatib at­tacked the bas­ket with reck­less aban­don and used his im­pos­ing frame to keep the de­fense un­der re­lent­less pres­sure.

Khatib has es­chewed his swash­buck­ling past in fa­vor of a mea­sured ap­proach, where his pass­ing skills and high bas­ket­ball IQ are the pil­lars of Cham­pville’s team-ori­ented ap­proach.

Dwayne Jack­son, ac­quired from Sagesse in the off­sea­son, has as­sumed the role of pri­mary scorer for Cham­pville, with the tow­er­ing Ater Ma­jok the sec­ond op­tion for Fouad Abu Chakra’s side.

With his in­or­di­nate height and reach Ma­jok, an­other ar­rival from Sagesse, is a night­mare to guard for op­pos­ing play­ers in this league.

The Su­danese-born cen­ter, who was se­lected 58th by the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers in the 2011 NBA draft, is av­er­ag­ing 19 points, 10 re­bounds and al­most six blocks this sea­son.

Af­ter con­sec­u­tive routs of Mout­ta­hed and Sagesse – the sec­ond a 28point blowout – many had Cham­pville pegged as Riyadi’s near­est chal­lengers this year.

If noth­ing else, the 72-69 loss in Ma­nara re­in­forces that no­tion.

De­spite shoot­ing a stag­ger­ingly low 34 per­cent from the field, Cham­pville man­aged to re­main on the coat­tails of Riyadi, only a late Kevin Gal­loway dunk ef­fec­tively end­ing the visi­tors’ stub­born re­sis­tance.

The loss would have been a valu­able learn­ing curve for this re­vamped Cham­pville squad, who can im­prove to 3-1 when they host By­b­los (1-2) Fri­day.

Mean­while, Riyadi will aim to stay per­fect de­spite a tricky game at Arab Club Cham­pi­onship run­ners-up Beirut Club Sun­day. Riyadi, rein­vig­o­rated by the re­turn of the time­less Is­mail Ah­mad, have played solid, if not spec­tac­u­lar, bas­ket­ball en route to their 3-0 record.

Ah­mad Far­ran’s side are do­ing a com­mend­able job of shar­ing the scor­ing bur­den, with six play­ers av­er­ag­ing dou­ble dig­its for the sea­son.

They still, how­ever, lack the req­ui­site of­fen­sive jug­ger­naut to even­tu­ally carry them over the hump.

The for­eign tri­dent of Mike Lyons, Jackie Carmichael and Gal­loway have put up mod­er­ate num­bers of 18, 13 and 10 points per game re­spec­tively.

Else­where, de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Homenet­men can main­tain their 100 per­cent record against win­less Hoops Satur­day while up­starts At­las host Mout­ta­hed. – J.J.

With his height and reach Ma­jok, is a night­mare to guard.

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