MUHARRAQ stepped it up last night and claimed a do-or-die 86-74 victory over Manama to stay alive in the finals series of this year's Zain Bahrain Basketball League.
Bader Abdulla Malabes and Ali Abbas scored 18 points apiece to lead a balanced Muharraq attack and come away with the much-needed game three result, which cut Manama's lead in their best-of-five duel to 1-2.
Muharraq have extended the exciting head-to-head with their heated rivals for at least another contest, with game four scheduled to take place on Sunday, also at Zain Basketball Arena in Um Al Hassam.
Game five, if needed, to be held on Friday next week.
With their backs against the wall, the defending champions came out firing in yesterday's affair and took a commanding 11-2 lead early in the contest. But Manama found their rhythm and stayed within striking distance for most of the game, despite Muharraq holding a double-digit lead.
The victors stayed ahead 62-54 heading into the final canto, which is when Manama mounted a final surge to try and steal the win in the end.
A Hassan Nairouz lay-up midway through the quarter got them to within four points, 62-66, but Muharraq did well to answer back.
Super substitute Kadhem Majed came up big in the period for his team. Majed scored four straight points to put Muharraq back ahead by double digits, 76-64, to virtually seal the win with just under two minutes left.
An Ali Abbas triple helped them stretch their advantage to 14, 79-65, in the game's closing moments, and then Ahmed Al Derazi buried his own long range attempt just before the final buzzer to rub salt on Manama's wounds and peg the final score.
Majed finished with 17 points in the win, while naturalised Bahraini CJ Giles, a former American, chipped in with 15 markers. Abbas added 12 for Muharraq.
Malabes, Giles, Abbas, veteran Ahmed Malallah and Mohammed Abdulmajeed all had four fouls to end the game.
Sharp-shooting guard Mohammed Hussain paced Manama in the loss with 17 points before fouling out late in the contest. Ahmed Abdulaziz finally had some good contributions for his team after a sub-par effort in the first two games. He contributed 16 points, while Hassan Nairouz scored 15 and Mohammed Hassan nine.
Manama's Senegalese professional and former NBA player Pape Sow was held to just six points in the game.
Muharraq carried their lead from early in the contest into the half-time break, when they were up 43-35. They maintained their lead throughout and have now lived to fight another day for this year's championship.
Manama are still one victory away from winning the title, which would be their 17th in league history and first since they last won the league in 2006. Muharraq are gunning for their third crown and are looking to claim back-to-back titles.