The Victoria International School of Sharjah (VISS) U16 squad earned a hard-fought victory in the highlight game of the National School League Basketball’s opening weekend yesterday.
Led by centre Hashim Hazeem, the hosts topped Delhi Private School (DPS), Sharjah 30-24 to set the tone for their campaign in the UAE-wide tournament.
Hazeem was the catalyst on both ends of the floor, just missing a double-double with a game-high nine points and eight rebounds. He also swatted four shots to protect the rim against DPS drives.
“It was a good team effort,” Hazeem said. “We still have to work on defence a little bit more, but we were good on offence. We’ll look at the footage and see what we can do better.”
With grace to compliment his towering height, Hazeem looked like a natural on the court, despite being relatively new to the sport.
“Back in grade seven three years ago, they had the after-school club tryouts. I started it and didn’t like it at all,” Hazeem said. “But then in grade eight, they had the whole competition and everything, so I joined it and now I’m here.”
VISS led throughout, but DPS worked hard to stay in the game and outscored their opponents 7-4 in the second quarter to close the gap to 16-12 at halftime. VISS again widened the lead in the third quarter, only for DPS to make a push in the fourth.
After DPS cut the lead to six with nearly a minute to play, VISS answered with a timely basket to keep the separation and ultimately held on for the win. DPS big man Jaison Johny stuffed the stat box with six points, six rebounds and eight blocks as he battled Hazeem in the paint all game.
VISS coach Russell McKie was pleased with his team’s opening performance against an unfamiliar opponent.
“Obviously, we haven’t played most of these other schools before. For all the teams in the competition, it’s new and it’s something fresh.
“You’ve got to be ready yourself so we came in with a few little strategies, a few little ideas as to what might happen, but you just never know,” McKie said.
“You’ve got to set your own team tactics and make sure your team is ready to perform on defence and run some simple offences, which can work against any team. So you’ve got to be prepared.”
In the other U16 clash, New Filipino Private School (NFPS) throttled Pakistan Islamia Higher School (PAK) 72-8.
Five NFPS players finished with six points or more, while three scored at least 13. Guard Eric Miguel Pancito was the high-scorer with 20, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and added two assists, one rebound and a steal.
Team-mate Philip Sanchez contributed 13 points, five assists, three rebounds and two steals in the lopsided effort. Employing an aggressive defence, NFPS forced turnover after turnover and capitalised with fast-break baskets. They also hit a barrage of outside shots, netting eight 3-pointers.
The Sharjah teams will return to action next Saturday for their second games, while teams in Dubai and Abu Dhabi & Al Ain will join in on the NSL action as the roundrobin format continues.
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