Bull-strong power forward Vireak Sambath scored 19 points to lead American International School (AIS) to a lopsided 35-24 win over Sovannaphom (Champovon) in the boys’ category of the ongoing 15th High School Basketball League (HSBL) at National Training Center Gym yesterday.
The low-scoring game was marked by the terrible shooting of both teams. Aside from Sambath, no other players from both squads scored in double figures.
Right from the opening tip, Sambath used his strong frame to bully his way inside as he repeatedly scored from close range against much-smaller defenders.
In the first two minutes of the game, Sambath scored five points off two lay-ups and a free throw as AIS roared off to a 6-0 start. Sovannaphom, on the other hand, committed two straight turnovers to open the game.
After Sambath missed a wide-open three-pointer, Sovannaphom point guard Sol Viseth converted from downtown for his team’s first points of the game.
With Sovannaphom opting not to double team him, Sambath continued to attack the basket as his teammates willingly fed him the ball.
Often, Sovannaphom was forced to foul Sambath, who went to the line 10 times in the first five minutes of the game. Fortunately for Sovannaphom, Sambath only made 50 percent of his tries (5-10) from the charity stripe in the first quarter.
With 5:30 remaining in the period, AIS was on top, 10-3.
While ahead in the rebounding department, Sovannaphom repeatedly committed errors on the offensive end. Sovannaphom committed 12 turnovers in the first quarter alone. These errors were mostly passes intercepted after being lobbed carelessly.
The first period ended with AIS ahead by five, 13-8.
With Sambath getting much-needed help from centre Ea Chyheang, AIS slowly built up its lead in the second period. With five minutes on the clock, AIS increased its advantage to 10 points, 18-8.
But Sovannaphom was able to loiter around and avoided being blown out thanks to a tightening defense
During a break in the second quarter, Sovannaphom power forward Hoeing Prum promised to put a brake on the inside sallies of Sambath, and they made good on their promise by double or triple-teaming the AIS star.
“We need to stop him if we are to win,” he stressed.
Apparently bothered by Sovannaphom’s swarming defense, Sambath started to miss from inside. The AIS coached was forced to take him out momentarily as Sovannaphom threatened to turn the game around. Sovannaphom’s comeback was aided by solid rebounding, where, in one possession, it was able to corral four straight offensive rebounds.
In the absence of Sambath, the AIS team collectively carried the offense. Not only were they able to halt the Sovannaphom rally, but they also increased the lead to 15 points, 28-13, at the end of the first half.
Sovannaphom, meanwhile, could not change its erring ways as it continued to throw away the ball, with the team collectively committing a record 18 turnovers in the first 20 minutes of the game.
Both teams shot poorly, missing many shots from less than 10 feet.
Sovannaphom opened the third quarter with four straight points and clamped down further on defense as it inched closer. Sovannaphom also capitalised on the absence of Sambath who rested at the beginning of the period.
Sambath’s return at the 5:00 minute mark seemingly energised AIS. But the star forward could not shake the double teams thrown at him and visibly struggled on both ends of the floor.
Sovannaphom limited AIS to five points in the third period. But its own offensive woes meant that AIS would still be comfortably ahead, 33-21, after three quarters.
Both teams combined for five points in the penultimate period as AIS escaped with the win, 35-24, at the final buzzer.
No player from Sovannaphom scored more than eight points. Shooting guard Ol Kim Hai led the losing side with his eight markers.
Chyheang ably backed up Sambath by chipping in 6 points and snaring two crucial steals in the final minutes.
With the win, AIS upped its standing to 1-0, while Sovannaphom fell to 0-1.
In the other game (girls’ division), Baray won over AIS, 45-37 for its first win in the tournament.
The HSBL is organised by Cambodia Basketball Federation (CBF) and sponsored by Yuetai.