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Orthodoxi close in on basketball play-offs

By Aline Bannayan - Feb 12,2015 - Last updated at Feb 12,2015

AMMAN — Former champs Orthodoxi play Ittihad on Friday as the competition heats up in the final play-offs for the title of the Premier Basketball League.

Orthodoxi lead Ittihad 2-1 and need two more wins to seal the title. They beat them once in Round 2 and again in the first play-off match 79-69.

Titleholders Applied Science University (ASU) have withdrawn from the competition despite efforts to keep them in the play-offs as they were to play Riyadi for third place. 

ASU were in a three-way fight for the title with former champs Orthodoxi leading the standings in Round 2 with one defeat to Ittihad 86-73. However, ASU withdrew from their match against Orthodoxi in the final minutes when they disputed the referee’s call with Orthodoxi leading 73-69. Head coach Murad Barakat’s unsportsmanlike gesture after the call prompted the referees to call for a technical foul which led the team to withdraw from the match.

ASU later announced they would suspend the basketball team and release all players, a move that has drawn criticism from observers as well as the governing body — the Jordan Basketball Federation (JBF). 

ASU Board Chairman Haitham Abu Khadijeh noted that his club was withdrawing citing “the JBF’s inability to develop the game, coaches and referees which has a negative effect on the game locally and on the Arab and regional scene.” He added: “We should have taken this decision earlier.”

JBF Vice Chairman Amer Abu Rashed noted ASU should not have pulled out but instead lodged a complaint in case they had any issues regarding officiating or otherwise.

“We treat all clubs on an equal footing. ASU have put in a lot of effort to develop the game and have many players in the national team.”

Established in 2007, ASU were crowned First Division champ in 2007 and were promoted to the Premier Basketball League in the 2008/09 season finishing runner-up. The team won the League four times. ASU finished fourth at the 21st Asian Champions Cup and were 3rd at the 22nd Arab Clubs Basketball Championship in 2009 when Zain conceded their Arab title. Last year, ASU finished third in the West Asian Clubs competition and were set to represent Jordan in the 8th edition of the event in March. The national team won the West Asian Championship in May and many ASU players are in the line-up.

ASU had led the preliminary stage followed by Orthodoxi, Riyadi and Ittihad. According to JBF regulations, the team’s continued absence would mean the competition rules would be applied, which includes fines and relegation to Division 1. 

On the other hand, Jalil took the top position in the bottom four who played a separate round to decide the two teams to be relegated. Jalil beat Ghazzet Hashem 100-93 (81-81) in overtime and settled for 5th place while Ghazzet Hashem finished 6th leaving Nashama and Awdeh to be relegated. Nashama will be back in the League if ASU are relegated.

ASU won the season’s first basketball competition when they beat Ittihad for the Jordan Cup title. The knockout competition saw Ittihad oust Riyadi 78-77 in the semis as ASU ousted Orthodoxi 92-65.

Last season, ASU beat Ittihad to win the League for the second consecutive time, while Riyadi won 3rd place after beating Kulieh. Orthodoxi finished 5th.

Orthodoxi last won the title in 2011 ending a 10-year drought to take home their record 22nd League title when they beat titleholders ASU. 

The Premier Basketball League which started in 1952 has had 58 editions with eight teams crowned champion. It was cancelled in three seasons and discontinued once. Orthodoxi have won 22 times, Ahli 21, Zain-Fastlink six times, ASU four times, Jazira-Aramex twice, Urdun, Watany and the Electricity Co. once each.

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