KUWAIT CITY, May 3: Americana Food Company’s Jong Simbol made two quick 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter to flip the game for his side en route to a 98-80 semifinal victory over Kuwait Steel in a tension-filled inter-company division basketball Game 1 Friday afternoon at the Khaitan Sport Club. Kout Food Group clinched the second finals slot after convincingly outpacing Body Building 84-64 in another neck-breaking Game 2 duel.
Simbol finished with 23 points while Javillo added 21 and forward Manilog contributed 13 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists for the AFC winning effort.
Buoyed by Simbol and Javillo, who got hot early on kickoff to shoot their side ahead 33-15 early into the opening half, Americana outscored Steel 11-9 in the first six minutes of the second half but failed to defend their advantage as Steel roared back in a 25-13 run scripted by Jonjon Labadan to slice down their deficit to 10 points, 49-39, at the close of the first half. Labadan and Castro each had 22 and 17 points apiece for Kuwait Steel.
Missing four shots in quick succession, the Steel coach was forced to call a timeout to steady his team, who understandably were anxious for a shot at the finals for the first time, should they overcome the energetic AFC side. Helped by back-to-back jumpers by Castro, Steel managed to claw back their deficit with a 26-21 play at the close of the third to 5 points.
In a quick turnaround, Americana turned the screws back on Steel following a few substitutions and a timeout in the final stretch. Simbol led a hard-nosed attack bombarding the Steel hoop repeatedly as the AFC defense withstood Labadan’s desperate but error-filled bid to bring his team all the way back.
Navarra jumped into the fray, hitting a hook shot which missed the hoop and landed in the hands of Simbol who lobbed it from the arc for a three, then followed up with another 3 to finish the job for Americana at 98-80, who row into the finals to set up a championship clash against Kout Food Group next week. KFG dominated their semi final game against Body Building to finish with a whopping 20 points gap at 84-64.
On the other hand, new entrants Virtuous mesmerized Bad Bananas with a 90-86 outcome in their 5’8” division game, as Pineda made the go-ahead dunk with ten seconds left to propel Virtuous past Bad Bananas. Both teams took turns in the lead, with Bad Bananas taking the first half lead 23-17, 24-22.
Virtuous rallied back into the fray as Flores hit two free throws with seven seconds left to end the third quarter with a 30-19 run, taking Virtuous into the lead by three points.
And following a timeout the Virtuous inbounded to Pineda who dribbled to the lane and passed to Flores who slammed the ball with his right hand for another Virtuous lead extension at 21-20, widening the gap to four points to close the game at 90-86 for Virtuous. In the 5’8’ division last two games, FKTC beat Marina Volts 128-90 while AMCROC run roughshod on EPC Buffalos, thrashing them 93-40.
By Iddris Seidu – Arab Times Staff