Hosts Lebanon fight their way past Philippines into final

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Fadi El Khatib scored a game-high 25 and Jackson Vroman accounted for 23 as hosts Lebanon kept a fighting Philippines at bay with a 81-80 result, and enter the finals of the 3rd FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup on Saturday.

Sunday’s final will witness Lebanon take on Japan.

Marcio Lassiter of Philippines too had 25 points for the game.

Chris Tiu brought the score close 77-78 with 1:32 left on the clock, but Vroman collected a defensive rebound and set El Khatib (red jersey in picture above) on the run, which calmed the hosts’ nerves.

In the flurry of fouls and free-throws that followed, Lebanon held the ball more, thus earned more fouls and more importantly converted more of these free-throws and made the final.

Philippines had breathed hard on Lebanon’s neck for the better part of the first 15 minutes with leads changing hands like scrappy poker table.

Vroman and El Khatib took charge of the proceedings when push came to shove and powered Lebanon ahead.

El Khatib scored on the paint and Vroman effected a three-point play – assisted by Jean Abd El Nour on both occasions – to help Lebanon close the first half 49-45 ahead.

The hosts never trailed after that, although their South East Asian rivals kept the pressure on the scoreboard.

“We didn’t expect it to be an easy game anyway,” Lebanon coach Tab Baldwin.

Talking about El Khatib, Baldwin, “He is getting better as far as the larger picture is concerned.”

“But I have to say that we wouldn’t have tonight without him.”

Baldwin also attributed to the tight scoreboard situation to El Khatib’s presence.

“He did a great job in transition in the first half. But then you can’t expect a big guy like to him to guard these little speedy guys.”

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