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Jordan Basketball League final play-offs start

By Aline Bannayan - Dec 13,2018 - Last updated at Dec 13,2018

AMMAN — Kufr Youba play Ahli in the best-of-five play-offs for the title of the Jordan Basketball League which tips off on Friday.

An unlikely finalist, Kufr Youba eliminated Orthodoxi in closely contested matches in the best-of-three final, beating them 65-63 and 76-73. Kufr Youba have suffered an endlesss string of injuries but Mousa Awadi, Nidal Sharif and Khaldoun Abu Rqieh’s determined efforts enabled them to get past Orthodoxi. Now their real test begins in the final play-offs where they will face a better equipped line-up of Ahli, who eliminated Wihdat 87-84 and 76-70 to move to the final play-off.

Ahli, who last won the league in 1994, have a chance to make history again. They won the Jordan Cup earlier this year, and now advanced thanks to the combined determined efforts of the team led by Zeid Abbas, Ibrahim Hamati and a young line-up led by a coach Zeid Alkhas who was replaced by veteran club player Imad Saeed. 

This season the league seemed to revive old memories and competitive spirit in the Kingdom’s second most popular sport, with many close matches early 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.

In an effort to revive the game which was suffering from administrative snags, low funding, 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 back again. Following the Jordan Cup, won by Ahli, the top six headed into the Premier Division, the rest into the First and Second divisions.

In the 2015/16 season, Riyadi were crowned league champs when they beat titleholders Orthodoxi. Riyadi had last won the league in 1997 by then Jazira-Aramex team (whose players later on formed Riyadi’s line-up). Riyadi won the league again in 2016/17.

Teams like former league and cup champs Applied Science University, Ittihad, and Wihdat 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, which started in 1952, 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) six times, ASU four times, Riyadi and Jazira-Aramex twice each, while Urdun, Watany and the Electricity Co. won once each.

This week, the national team dropped to fifth in the standings in qualifiers for the FIBA World Cup 2019. Jordan is now behind New Zealand, South Korea, Lebanon and China following defeats to South Korea (86-75) and New Zealand (96-69). The qualifiers will resume in February when Jordan plays China and New Zealand. In previous Round 2 matches, Jordan lost 88-79 to China and 86-75 to South Korea. 

In Round 1, Jordan topped Group C after its beat India 102-88, Lebanon 87-83 and Syria 109-72 and Round 1 results were carried over to Round 2 in which seven teams (the top three teams from each group and the best 4th) in addition to host China will move to the FIBA World Cup finals set for August 31, which will include 32 teams.

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