x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Al Ahli basketball team prefer substance over style

German coach Peter Schomers thrilled to bring President's Cup back after 10-year wait.

Al Ahli, in red, win ugly to beat Al Wasl for President's Cup basketball title. Mike Young / The National
Al Ahli, in red, win ugly to beat Al Wasl for President's Cup basketball title. Mike Young / The National

DUBAI // The coach of Al Ahli conceded his team did not play a "pretty" game in the President's Cup final against city rivals Al Wasl, but was delighted to cement their position as the premier basketball side in the country with a third title of the season.

Ahli, who have already won the league and the Vice-President's Cup, maintained a three-point lead over Wasl at the end of every quarter before blazing away in the final 12 minutes for an 84-71 win at the Al Nasr club on Sunday night.

This was the ninth President's Cup title for Ahli, the first since 2002, and Peter Schomers, the German who has previously coached teams like Hamburg and Ludwigsburg in the German leagues, was happy to bring the 10-year wait to an end.

"I am very happy with the win, but I am not happy with the performance," said Schomers, who has also worked in Austria, Romania, Lebanon and Kuwait before taking charge at Ahli last August.

"[But] all that counts is a win, especially in this part of the season when the concentration is already waning. It is very hard to keep the concentration at a high level, especially after the championship [league]. It's a long season.

"So it doesn't have to be a pretty game. At the right time, we had a few good minutes of pressure defence. I felt like we had some good defence, block shots and that was the game, I think. It could have been a close game."

Ahli have participated in four competitions this year, winning three and they have the chance of clinching a fourth title in June when they play the Super Cup.

Schomers credits the success to a focused group of players, who have accepted his system from the very start and excelled in the roles he has designated to them.

The German, who is looking forward to his second season at the club, is also impressed with the younger players knocking on the doors of the senior team.

"There are a few talents," he said. "I didn't get much time to get into it, but we have some practising with us and they are ready to come up to the first team."

Cheikh Samb, Ahli's Senegalese professional who has played for the Detroit Pistons, Denver Nuggets and the New York Knicks in the NBA, was the standout player on Sunday, excelling in defence and scoring a game-topping 32 points for the winners.

"Defensively, he is very valuable with the block shots when he is in the right position," Schomers said about his star player.

"Offensively, he had a good shooting game. Sometimes he overdoes it a little bit with three points shooting, but he was very focused [against Wasl] and I liked the way he played."

Qais Omar, Mohammed Abdullatif and the brothers Saeed and Musa Mubarak, played well alongside Samb. Schomers was pleased with the "great team effort".

"Musa had a bad start, but made some really important shots at the end," he said. "Mohammed and Saeed did a good job just shielding the ball. Nobody had a great, great game, but we hung in there as a team and we did it in the end."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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