Darius Rice Wins a Championship

MANAMA were last night crowned champions of this year's Zain Bahrain Basketball Cup. The victors romped to a 105-81 victory over bitter rivals Al Ahli to emphatically sweep their best-of-three championship series in two games and win back the crown.

American professional Darius Rice (208-F-82, college: Miami (FL)) led the way for Manama. The six-foot, 10-inch centre poured in a game-high 35 points while pulling down 13 rebounds. Point Guard Ahmed Abdulaziz chipped in with 20, while All star trio Mohammed Hassan, Mahmood Ghuloom and Ahmed Al Mutawa (199-F/C-81, agency: Low Country Sports, college: Broward CC) had nine points apiece. Also Al mutawa had 12 rebounds and 7 assists.

Coach Jason Rabedeaux (agency: Edge Sports ) in just a short time transformed Manama into a dominant powerhouse giving players direction and confidence, Manama were on fire from beyond the arc, burying 13 three-pointers in the game. Rice alone had six. With the win, Manama came away with their third Cup triumph in the last four years. They lost last year's title to Muharraq, but before that won it two seasons in a row. They have now claimed the annual competition a record 14 times overall.

'This is like a dream!' Al Mutawa told the press. The team's inspirational and defensive leader added: 'We worked hard for this, but it's not over yet; we are now going to fight for the league Championship' After playing most of his younger years with Manama, Al Mutawa moved on to greener pastures in Kuwait for a few years before finally returning to his old club this season. 'This is why I came back,' Al Mutawa said while pointing to the thousands of jubilant Manama supporters who flocked to Zain Basketball Arena in support of their club.

With Ahli playing without influential court general Hussain Shaker, Manama were in control of the game from the opening tip. They led 27-16 at the end of the first quarter, and then in the second, blew the game wide open and took a 59-33 lead into the half. Guard Bader Abdulla Malabes came off the bench to help spark Manama into extending their lead. Malabes hit two successive triples that made it 48-30, and they never looked back. Manama eventually led by as many as 40 points in the third quarter before cruising the rest of the way. Added Rice, who only joined Manama mid-season: 'My teammates have really made me feel like a part of the family since I've arrived. I'm glad to have helped Manama win this title.' Of his stellar offensive display, Rice said: 'I love championship games. They bring out the best in me.'

Maytham Jameel top scored for Ahli with 30 points in the loss. Import Marquin Chandler (202-F-82, college: San Jose St.) from the US scored 23 before fouling out. Both teams were awarded their respective trophies and medals by Bahrain Olympic Committee chief executive Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa in the presence of Bahrain Basketball Association officials.

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