Boxscores | Photo gallery | Video interview with Raca DRAGAN
TOKUSHIMA (FIBA Asia Championship) - With mainstays Joseph Vogel and Fadi El Khatib playing in wonted cohesion, Lebanon dashed the East Asian hopes in the Championship, handing out a 76-74 defeat to Korea in the first semifinals on Saturday.
"It was nothing," Lebanon coach Dragan Raca shrugged off the proximity in the final score-line.
"If you really see, if we had got the free-throws the score would have been much bigger. So I think we had the game in our control," said the Greek-Cypriot. Bassem Balaa fumbled with the twin free-throws twice in the dying moments.
Fadi El Khatib top scored the game, yet again, with 32 points and was the cynosure of the game.
"Of course a player of Fadi's ability ought to catch the attention in a game at this level. And to me he's the best player of the Championship," Raca said.
"His (Fadi) speed and sharpness made all the difference," Korean coach Choi Bu Yung said of El Khatib's influence on the game.
Talking about the deficit at the end of the second quarter, after Korea had run a 26-13 lead in the second quarter to negate the 23-15 advantage Lebanon had gained in the first, Raca said: "Nothing was wrong."
"We were playing to a next system of defense, in order to stop Ha (Seung-Jin). It was working perfectly in the first quarter. I think we lost a little concentration. I just had to remind the players of what they were doing. It was easy, as always, to get this team back to the rails," Raca said.
Leading the Lebanese defense wrap on Ha was the tall Joseph Vogel, who accounted for 15 rebounds - nine in defense - apart from the 18 points. Lebanon defense was at its best during the third quarter, when they ran a 15-0 spree, keeping the Korean scoring blank for the quarter for almost seven minutes.
"I think Joe played his game at a much higher level. I always knew he is capable of raising the level according to the situation."
"I think we are on course and things are going according to plan. Only that they have to work," Raca said ahead of Sunday's final.
Bu Yung Choi was rather impressed with the way Lebanon controlled Ha. The 223cm center was kept well under check by Vogel. The Korean had an unusually low 15 points, as compared to his normally powerful presence.
"He couldn't do much. That had an effect on our rhythm," said Yong Choi.
"But I must say that with the teamwork Lebanon showed, I feel I've lost to a very good team."
"When they missed those (Bassem's free-throws), I thought we had a chance. Which unfortunately was not to be," Yong Choi said.
Lebanon 76 (Fadi El Khatib 32, 8, Joseph Vogel 18, Brian Feghali 11) bt Korea 74 (Kim Dong-Woo 23, Ha Seung-Jin 15, Kim Joo-Sung). Quarterwise: 23-15, 41-36, 60-54.