Omari Spellman sank a decisive three-pointer to elevate Lebanon to a crucial first victory in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 against Ivory Coast, finishing 94-84, on Thursday at the Indonesia Arena in Jakarta.
The Cedars maintained their pursuit of an Olympic slot with a 1-3 record in Group P, while the Les Elephants slipped to an identical 1-3 standing following their third loss in the global showcase.
Amir Saoud stood out in Lebanon’s must-win game, contributing 29 points, five rebounds, and eight assists. Meanwhile, Spellman concluded with 25 points, six rebounds, five assists, four blocks, and a steal.
In the absence of FIBA Asia Cup MVP Wael Arakji, Spellman’s crucial triple ignited an 8-0 rally for the Cedars, preserving their Olympic aspirations and securing their inaugural World Cup triumph at 94-84.
Prior to Lebanon’s decisive run, Ivory Coast’s Jean Dally, Vafessa Fofana, and Cedric Bah combined for a six-point surge to remain within striking distance with a minute left in the match, 86-84.
After witnessing their 14-point halftime lead dissipate due to a rapid 25-8 surge from the Les Elephants in the third quarter, resulting in a 63-66 score, the Cedars responded with three consecutive three-pointers, sparking a 13-0 run that extended into the early stages of the final quarter, establishing a 76-66 lead.
Lebanon was resolute in claiming their maiden victory, initiating a 12-3 surge in the opening period to create separation from the Les Elephants in the first half, securing a 41-55 advantage.
“All the guys stepped up, we focused again on our rules, that’s why we won the game. We have always two things to control in the game: fastbreak points and second-chance points. Once we win those two points, we have high chance to win the game just like earlier,” said Cedars head coach Jad El Hajj.
To remain in contention for the single Asian berth in the Olympics, Lebanon must overcome Iran in their final classification match on Saturday, while hoping for a Japan loss tonight and other Asian teams to stumble on the last day of the classification phase.
In the losing effort, Dally and Patrick Tape spearheaded Les Elephants with 21 and 15 points, respectively. Only two other players, Solo Diabate and Cedric Bah, managed to score in double figures during the game.
Both teams are set to conclude their classification campaigns on Saturday, with Ivory Coast facing France in the earlier matchup of the day. (Ernest Martin Tuazon)
Lebanon (94) – Saoud 29, Spellman 25, El Darwich 12, Zeinoun 11, Haidar 10, Mezher 5, Ezzedine 2, Gyokchan 0, Khalil 0, Mansour 0.
Ivory Coast (84) – Dally 21, Tape 15, Diabate 11, Bah 10, Abouo 6, Kone 6, Sidibe 6, Fofana 5, Dadiet 4, Moulare 0, Zouzoua 0.
Quarterscores: 32-20, 55-41, 73-66, 94-84