|Madarious Gibbs of Nha Trang Dolphins (left) tries to pass Đinh Thanh Tâm of Hanoi Buffaloes during their Playoffs' second game on September 12 in Hà Nội. The Dolphins win 82-67. — Photos of VBA|
HÀ NỘI — Nha Trang Dolphins are in the VBA finals for the very first time after beating Hanoi Buffaloes 82-67 on September 12 in the capital.
The youngest squad of the national professional league had a second win in the best-of-three Playoff round. They defeated last year's runners-up 85-61 on September 8 at home in Nha Trang.
Despite playing away, Nha Trang opened with a storm of attacks from the off.
Madarious Gibbs' and teammates' consecutive attempts brought the first points including three successful three-pointers to give the Dolphins a 16-8 lead in the sixth minute of the first quarter.
However, they also made mistakes including Gibbs twice losing the ball. These helped the Buffaloes come back and go ahead.
Newcomer Lenny Daniel scored a series of eight points while Udun Osakue added two to push their team to an 18-16 lead in the eighth minute.
But free throws of Dominique Tham and Robert Sampson helped the Dolphins wrap up the first quarter at 18-all.
The second quarter saw Lenny's brilliant performance. The 2.03m-towering power forward scored the most points for the host side. At the same time, Tham and Gibbs were unstoppable bagging points for the visitors.
The Dolphins were better in the last seconds with a perfect three-pointer by Huỳnh Vĩnh Quang and led 38-35 before the interval.
The balance was maintained after the break until the seventh minute when Nguyễn Phúc Vinh entertained his supporters with a three-pointer from the sideline. Dolphins created a gap of seven points at 50-43.
Their counter-attacks gave the Buffaloes' defenders no chance to save their basket. It was 56-45 for the Dolphins at the end of the third quarter.
|Lenny Daniel jumps to score for the Buffaloes. He recorded a double-double in his second match with the new team.|
The Buffaloes increased their speed in the last quarter. Đinh Tiến Công, Osakue and Lenny scored two points each to narrow the score at 51-56, forcing coach Predrag Lukic to call a time-out for the Dolphins.
The more the Dolphins played the better they performed. Not only their foreigners but also local players such as Sơn Minh Tâm and Võ Huy Hoàn shone brilliantly. They extended the gap to 65-51 in the sixth minute.
The Buffaloes suffered a big blow when Lenny was unexpectedly sidelined after banging his head in a fall seven minutes into the last quarter.
Without their key forward, the hosts could not make a change to the scoreboard and the game ended at 82-67 for the Dolphins.
Gibbs won the Player of the Games with 27 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
“After our meets in the regular season, we strongly believe that we can beat the Hanoi Buffaloes. Our wins have been predicted," said Gibbs.
"The Finals will be a very difficult challenge for us because Saigon Heat have been reigning champions in recent years. We will have to focus maximally to reach our best."
On the Buffaloes side, Lenny made a double-double of 24 points and 18 rebounds in his second match with the new team. However, his solo performance could not help his team win.
The American said he had been in Việt Nam for three weeks but had not trained with the team regularly. He had not yet integrated with the Buffaloes and believed that things would be different if he had more time here.
At the same time, he admitted that the Dolphins were really strong in all fields. They deserved to be one of the title candidates this season, he said.
The Dolphins will face defending champion Saigon in a best-of-five Finals. The winner of the three games will lift the championship trophy.
The first game will be held at the Heat's CIS Gymnasium on September 17 in HCM City.
The second and third ones will be on September 21 and 24 at the Nha Trang University Gymnasium. — VNS