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Jordan has shot at gold after reaching Asian Games basketball final for first time

By Aline Bannayan - Oct 04,2023 - Last updated at Oct 04,2023

AMMAN — Jordan made history by reaching the final of the basketball competition for the first time after beating Chinese Taipei 90-71 in Wednesday’s semifinal at the 19thAsian Games currently underway in Hangzhou, China.

Jordan’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson carried the team together with sharp-shooter Sami Bza’i, Ahmad Dweiri, Freddie Ibrahim and John Bohannon to lead Jordan to the final thus securing the first medal in team sports when they play the Philippines, which edged China 77-76, in the second semifinal. The final will be played on Friday.

The Kingdom beat the Philippines 87-62 in Round 1, and if they play with the same momentum they are  favoured to win gold and take Jordan up higher on the medals table. The Kingdom’s previous best finish at the Asian Games was 4th in 1986 and 2006. They were 7th in 2010 and 9th in 2014.

Wednesdays’ semifinal saw Jordan build a solid start at first, however, Chinese Taipei’s fast paced game countered turnovers and limited bench support for Jordan as they levelled the score before Jordan won the first quarter 19-16.

The second quarter saw Hollis-Jefferson carry the team with rebounds and assists as Ibrahim’s two three pointers took Jordan to a 33-25 lead before ending half time 45-35.

Jordan expanded the lead in the third quarter which they won 24-12 through consecutive three-pointers by Bza’i and follow throughs by Dweiri while Hollis-Jefferson and Bohannon combined to give Jordan a commanding 69-47 lead.

Bohannon played his best match scoring a three-pointer and a dunk as Jordan led 77-50 and 83-55. Jordan’s benchplayed the dying minutes of the match leading 89-70 before sealing the score 90-71.

Jordan’s bench demonstrated that they area main gap in the squad’s chances of securing easier wins over opponents, especially at the recently concluded World Cup. The team gave its best as Jordan advanced in the competition, eliminating Saudi Arabia 76-57 in the quarters after they finished atop Group C in Round 1 beating the Philippines, Bahrain 84-60 and Thailand 97-63. 

In the quarters, the Philippines ousted Iran, China beat Korea, and Chinese Taipei beat Japan.In classification matches for 5-8th places, Iran beat Korea 89-82 and Saudi Arabia upset Japan 79-74.

The current edition of the Asian Games, which end on October 8 saw Jordan participate in 15 sports: Archery, athletics, badminton, basketball, boxing, fencing, golf, gymnastics, ju-jitsu, karate, shooting, taekwondo, weightlifting, triathlon and e-games.

Observers noted it will be imperative that sports federations are assessed with the Jordan Olympic Committee after all teams,apart from taekwondo, were eliminated  (Ju-jitsu and karate competitions start on Thursday).

Even in taekwondo, Jordan only secured 3 medals this time — two silvers by Saleh Sharabati (U80kg) and Zaid Mustafa (U68kg), and one bronze by Zaid Halawani (U63kg). Sharabati, the Tokyo Olympics silver medalist, now ranked 3rd in the world is eyeing the  Paris Olympics 2024.

Boxing was favoured to win a medal, after a bronze in 2018 and two silvers in 2014, but leading athletes including Mohammad Abu Jajeh 2023 IBA World Boxing Championshipsbronze medalist were eliminated early.Other athletes favored for medals included Jordan’s 2018 Asian Games gold medalist and 2023 World Championship silver medalist,taekwondo’s Juliana Al Sadiq, gymnastics star Ahmad Abu Saoud, silver medalistat the 2022 World Artistic Gymnastics Championship who won gold at the Asian Championship in 2019 and 2022 and silver in 2023. 

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