Rajai Ardakani lit up the basketball arena at Dubai British School with fourteen baskets in an eye-catching display as Raffles World Academy (RWA) overcame Dubai British School (DBS) in the fourth week of fixtures in the DASSA U16 league sponsored by Trans World Educational Experiences, Gulf Youth Sport reports.
Both sides started the day with 0 points in Group B of the DASSA U16 league and, with a place in the Team Plate at stake, both teams had it all to play for.
A thunderous first two quarters from RWA were enough to secure victory over a resilient DBS side, who rallied early in the fourth quarter to bring the tie back to 45-44, after being 10 points behind going into the third.
“It was just about the result today,” said Ardakani afterwards. “We started strong and hit DBS on the break several times. Thankfully my shooting game was on point today and I was able to convert most of my chances.”
From the start, it was clear that the impressive 16-year-old was RWA’s biggest threat. His speed on the break allowed him to manoeuvre away from his marker every time in the opening quarter, and clock up 14 points in 10 minutes. He was forever an outlet down the left hand side.
QUARTER 1: DBS 8 – 17 RWA
The hosts were aware of the danger, but there wasn’t much they could do about it. In the third minute of the second quarter Ardakani again turned at halfway and ran at the DBS defence, which backed off and gave him space to pick out Gunnar Schaap with a neat pass which was dummied by Greg Panizzutti. Panos Valaki bombed forward and found space at the perfect time to one look up before unleashing a sumptuous 3 pointer to put RWA 26-12 to the good.
“I practice free-throws in training,” Valaki said. “I want to step up and take them and I fancied my chances.”
DBS continued to sit in, and were fortunate not fall further behind just before the second quarter concluded. From nowhere, Panizzutti found himself one on one down the right and, had it not been for some superb defensive work from Zander Walls, RWA’s lead could have been 12 points at the half way stage.
QUARTER 2: DBS 18 – 28 RWA
RWA were perhaps a little too comfortable, and after some tough words of encouragement from Mr Phillips at half-time, DBS started the third quarter the brighter, enjoying more possession and the best chances.
As Sang went close with an ambitious three point effort from the right side of the court, and the tenacious Samer Atalla hit the rim after a powerful dribble and shot which was scrambled away, it was clear that the home side were beginning to turn the screw.
They found their feet four minutes into the third quarter. Sang’s persistence finally paid off – a superb three pointer gave his side the spark they needed, and preceded a wave of attacks on the RWA defence. Two pointers from Samer, Alavro Garcia and Zander pinned the score back to 34-27 at the end of the third quarter.
QUARTER 3: DBS 27 – 34 RWA
Some intelligent tactical changes from Mr Phillips at the break brought another round of chances for the home side, with the classy Sang and industrious Adnan producing some truly marvellous baskets for DBS, and taking the score to 45-44 with three minutes left on the clock.
A late run forward by Zander was as close s DBS got to levelling the scores. Had his blocked effort from close range fallen to the right person, things could have been different.
As DBS brought on attacking options of their own in search of an equaliser, they left gaps which Mr Bladen’s men began to exploit. A quick counter presented Kareem Kafity with space down the left. He had the awareness to find Max with a quick give and go, before launching an unstoppable effort from the angle straight into the net to give his school some breathing space.
In the end RWA were comfortable and deserving of their first victory of the campaign. DBS powerhouse Zander Walls was upbeat despite his side’s defeat; “we were punished for our slow start today. We played some exception basketball in the third and fourth quarters but by then we had a mountain to climb. We go again in the play-offs.”
Mr Phillips echoed his star’s words and took heart from his side’s performance in the final two quarters, “we started slowly which meant we were always playing catch up basketball. The boys played some awesome basketball towards the end and ran them close – we grew in confidence, got our shots off and it went down to the wire.”
“The boys were confident we’d see it through to the end,” concluded Kareem of RWA. “We’ve got a good squad and a great team spirit hopefully we’ll kick on from here and win our remaining matches. That’s what we’re aiming for.”
FULL TIME: DBS 45 – 51 RWA
Samer Atalla – There were classier DBS performances but Samer’s determination and tenacity in possession inspired DBS’s late surge.
Rajai Ardakani – RWA’s biggest threat all day he looked dangerous every time he got the ball. Took all off his 32 points superbly – one wonders how the match would have unfolded had it not been for his exemplary display in the opening quarter.
In a match with no shortage of eye-catching moments Sang’s 3 pointer in the third came at an important stage and gave the crowd belief that a comeback was possible.
Like Sang’s, Kareem’s three pointer in the final minute of the match came at a crucial time, settling his team’s nerves when DBS were pushing for an equaliser in the dying minutes.