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Ahli force title-deciding Game 5 in Basketball League play-offs

By Aline Bannayan - Dec 22,2018 - Last updated at Dec 22,2018

AMMAN —  Ahli have forced a title-deciding Game 5 against Kufr Youba in the best-of-five Jordan Basketball League play-offs for the title, which ends today.

Kufr Youba won the first match 92-85 before Ahli won the second 95-78. Kufr Youba came back to win game three 87-77, but  again Ahli leveled the series on Friday winning 80-74 at Prince Hamzah Arena.

Now it is up to Game 5 to decide the champion. Ahli, who last won the league in 1994, have a chance to make history again. They won the Jordan Cup earlier this year, and have now advanced thanks to the combined efforts of the team led by Zeid Abbas, Ibrahim Hamati and a young lineup led by coach Zeid Alkhas, who has now been replaced by veteran club player Imad Saeed. 

Wihdat edged Orthodoxi to take third place in the league, which seemed to revive memories and a competitive spirit in the Kingdom’s second most popular sport, with many closely contested  matches earlier in the season. Titleholders Riyadi and Jazira failed to make it to the final four after an inconsistent season. Riyadi, champions for the past two seasons, lacked the winning edge while Orthodoxi stumbled in the final four.

An unlikely finalist, Kufr Youba eliminated Orthodoxi in closely contested matches in the best-of-three semifinal round beating them 65-63 and 76-73, while Ahli eliminated Wihdat 87-84 and 76-70 to move to the final play-offs.

In an effort to revive the game which was suffering from administrative issues, low funding, the withdrawal of clubs as well as fan disenchantment, the Jordan Basketball Federation’s temporary board held the Jordan Cup earlier this year and eventually had 21 clubs competing again. The board even held Jordan’s first player draft and national team stars were dispersed to play among the clubs to get the zeal of competition flowing again. Following the Jordan Cup, won by Ahli, the top 6 headed into the Premier Division, and the rest into the First and Second Divisions.

In the 2015-16 season,  Riyadi were crowned league champion — a title which had eluded them for 20 years — when they beat titleholders Orthodoxi. Riyadi had last won the league in 1997, by then the Jazira-Aramex team (whose players later formed Riyadi’s lineup). Riyadi won the League again in the 2016-2017 season.

Teams like former league and cup champs Applied Science University, Ittihad and Zain had pulled out of the competition over differences with the Jordan Basketball Federation and players dispersed over the rest of clubs. Orthodoxi, who won their record 23rd league title in the 2014-15 season, won the Jordan Cup in 2016.  

The Basketball League started in 1952 and has had 59 editions with eight teams crowned champion. It was cancelled in three seasons and discontinued once. Orthodoxi have won 23 times, Ahli 21, Zain (Fastlink) 6 times, ASU four times, Riyadi and Jazira-Aramex twice, while, Urdun, Watany and the Electricity Co. won once each.

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