(MENAFN- Gulf Times) After carrying the label of also-rans for years, Al Arabi and Al Wakrah get a chance to redeem themselves on the national basketball scene when they clash in the final of the Qatar Men's League at Al Gharafa Sports Club today evening.
Both teams have defied predictions by shocking some of the big guns to set up a title clash, and none can claim with certainty to have a distinct edge, although statistically speaking, Al Arabi may fancy their chances a little more, having lost just four games in the regular season against Al Wakrah's six.
The three-game semi-final series saw Al Wakrah knock out former champions Al Gharafa, while Al Arabi saw off Qatar Sports Club, setting up an unlikely final that will be decided in one shot after a single match, further adding to the unpredictability all around.
Al Arabi have won seven league titles, the last of it coming in 1994. Al Wakrah, on the other hand, have won next to nothing their only claim to fame on the local basketball stage being a runners-up position in the Emir's Cup way back in 2001 when they lost to Al Rayyan.
Al Arabi were a force to reckon with in the initial years after the league was established in 1981. They went on to win five straight titles and then, after a stutter, won two more, the last in the 1993-94 season.
'We have not won the league in a quarter of a century and that is enough motivation for us, said Al Arabi's Tunisian coach Hatem Mamlouk at a pre-match press conference.
'We have played consistent basketball this season and all our players are up to the challenge, he added.
Mamlouk has some of the best players in the league to call upon William Earl Byrd, Oumar Seck and Khalid Suliman Abdi, to name a few.
'We have plenty of players to do the job. I am not going to pinpoint anybody, he said.
'All I can say is the match is going to be a challenge as Al Wakrah are a good team who are also highly motivated, he added.
Al Wakrah coach Ihab Galal said both teams would be under pressure to deliver, having reached this stage after several years.
'The pressure is obvious for both teams. We played under pressure against Al Gharafa in the semis. The atmosphere in the final will be also the same, said Galal.
Galal said Al Wakrah have followed a simple strategy throughout the tournament and have reaped the rewards for it.
'We believe in establishing control right from the start. Dominate the first quarter and let the other team play catch-up. In the final too we will be looking to do that, he said.
'We have a mix of young and experienced players and that we think will benefit us. But the final is always a different proposition. We have to be at our best.
The final will begin at 6.30pm after the conclusion of the third-place playoff between Al Gharafa and Qatar Sports Club.
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