Nicolas Al Ferzly
After years of instability and intermittent head coaches, Lebanon’s national basketball team is up and running again. Through a blend of experience and rising young talent, Lebanon’s newly appointed coach Joe Moujaes led his team to first place in the WABA (West Asia) tournament with an impressive 5-0 record.
Led by the legendary veteran Fadi el-Khatib, the newly assembled Lebanese roster showed great determination and chemistry throughout the five games. Although the team only had a small span of time to prepare for the cup, Moujaes was able to carve a defensive identity and to build a strong sense of unity within the squad.
The Cedars started off the tournament by defeating the Iraqi team with an 86 – 46 score, as well as the Palestinian team with a score of 99-75. On the third day, in what could be considered the highlight of the competition, Lebanon and Iran battled out.
The intense game between the two titans ended on a favorable note for Lebanon, which managed to record a 65-62 win. Top performers included Fadi el-Khatib, who registered 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists and Al-Riyadi forward Ali Haidar who registered 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Moujaes’ team strolled to gold in the final two games of the competition, securing important wins against the tournament’s host, Jordan (72 – 61) as well as Syria (78 – 64) thanks in part to Mouttahed player Elie Rustom’s grandiose performance of 26 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals.
After being left out during the first four games, Rustom demonstrated the team’s collective strength and the momentum that is gathering in Lebanese basketball courts.
Strikingly, the Lebanese Basketball Federation is, for the first time, effectively managing the national team. They are delivering some quality work to put the team and the coaching in the best possible conditions .
This gives fans and local followers of the sport a great amount of hope and excitement for the Asian Cup, which will be hosted in Lebanon in August. A strong team is being established under the banner of Basketball, and the possibility of sports once again acting as a unifying force for the Lebanese people is closer than ever.