A rematch from group play will decide the NSL Under-16 champions as Victoria International School Sharjah look for a different outcome this time against New Filipino Private School.
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Boasting size and height, especially in the form of dominant centre Hashim Hazeem, VISS appear the favourites on paper against the smaller roster of NFPS.
However, there’s more to the Patriots than meets the eye and they’ve already taken down the giants once with a 32-23 win during group play to hand VISS one of their two losses so far.
“They will be ready for us,” VISS coach Russell McKie said. “They know they’re going to be up against a battle of height. That’s how they went into the game when they first played us. We didn’t utilise our height to our strength or any of our advantages in that last game. We’ve obviously got better, as I’m sure they’ve got better as well, so it’s a tough one to call.”
The strength of NFPS lies in their ball-swarming defence. In their semi-final match-up against Dubai International Academy, the Patriots shut down the Wolves’ attack and forced countless turnovers with a full-court trap.
VISS won’t be as vulnerable with their cast of ball-handlers, including dynamic point guard Enver Kapetanovik, but NFPS are planning to apply pressure all the same.
“If our opponent is not good at ball-handling and not good in passing, we will beat them,” NFPS coach Aris Peralta said.
“But if they are good at ball-handling and have a good centre or forward, then we’ll be in danger.”
VISS do have a centre in Hazeem who will pose a daunting challenge for NFPS. The big man has been a force in the paint throughout the tournament, notching 79 points, a league-high 62 rebounds and 13 blocks.
NFPS though are a long way past fearing their lack of height, with Eric Pancito – the player of the game in the semi-finals with 17 points – admitting his team initially “lost our hope to win” because of the disadvantage, before gaining full confidence.
Regardless of the outcome, Sharjah will reign supreme over Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the age category, which McKie feels isn’t a surprise.
“Look at it, it’s two Sharjah teams in the final,” he said. “That’s an even bigger accolade and shows you how tough the Sharjah leagues are.
“The Dubai schools often get the bigger press, the bigger accolades for where they are.
"Sharjah doesn’t always get that. Now you’ve seen it on the court. Two Sharjah teams. It will be an interesting final.”
HOW THEY WEIGH UP
– Scoring in the paint
– Rim protection
– Outside shooting
– Perimeter defence
Hashim Hazeem: 79 points, 62 rebounds, 13 blocks, 5 assists,2 steals
Ahmed Abdulle: 73 points, 22 rebounds, 14 steals, 8 assists, 1 block
Enver Kapetanovik: 16 points in semi-finals
– Pressure defence
– Guard play
– Lack of size
– Rim protection
Eric Pancito: 59 points, 10 assists, 8 steals, 5 rebounds
Jeff Ryan Bustos: 64 points, 23 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals, 1 block
Sport360 brings you all the action from the Under-16 National School League Basketball semi-finals held at Victoria International School Sharjah.
The NSL FInals take place on Saturday 6th June – click here for more information.
Sport360 brings you the best action as the final four teams battle for a place in the under-14 National School League Basketball Finals.
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