AL HALA'S dreams of being crowned GCC Club Basketball Champions for the first time in their history were shattered in unceremonious fashion last night, as they went down 61-89 to Qatar's Al Rayyan at the Zain Bahrain Basketball Arena in Umm al Hassam.
Heading into the match on the back of four successive wins in the tournament, and most importantly a 75-69 victory over compatriots Muharraq in the semi-final, Al Hala were looking to finish off a fairy-tale week as first-time hosts of the event.
After the high of that win over Muharraq however, the final proved to be one step too far for coach Matthew Skillman and his charges, as they came up against a slicker and far more powerful Al Rayyan unit.
The Qatari champions set their stall out from the start and, with the outstanding player of the match, and arguably the tournament, pocket dynamo American import Pony Harold running the show, they built up a commanding lead.
The signs were ominous for the hosts as early as the end of the first-quarter, as they trailed 17-28.
With Al Hala talisman Patrick Johnson being kept quiet by a superb defensive unit, Al Rayyan were able to increase their dominance on proceedings and, despite an emotional rallying call from Skillman midway through the second quarter, there was little he could do to alter the 29-52 half-time scoreline.
The valiant Al Hala side kept working hard upon the resumption but at that stage, even their usually enthusiastic and vociferous supporters were finding it difficult to keep the spirits up and Al Rayyan kept the pressure on to take their lead out to 72-40 with ten minutes remaining.
With the game already over as a contest, the fourth quarter fizzled into disappointment as Al Rayyan ran out deserved winners of the GCC title for a fifth time.
Following the conclusion of the match, Al Rayyan were presented with the GCC Club championship trophy during a ceremony held under the patronage of Supreme Council for Youth and Sports chairman and Bahrain Olympic Committee president Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
Earlier in the evening, Muharraq bounced back from their semi-final defeat to secure a 83-66 victory over UAE's Al Wasl in the third-place play-off.
It was a match Muharraq never really looked in danger of losing, as they built up a 19-12 lead by the end of the first period and then maintained that advantage to the end.
Inspired by American duo CJ Giles and Ira Clark, who top-scored with 17, Muharraq's lead grew to 38-30 by half-time and then 59-47 by the end of the third period before sealing victory in fine style in the final 10 minutes.