WAEL Arakji was a man on a mission, steering Lebanon to the 2022 Fiba Asia Cup semifinals with a huge 72-69 win over China on Wednesday at the Istora Senayan in Jakarta.
The Lebanon point guard scored 32 points on 3-of-7 shooting from deep, to go with two boards as the Cedars advanced to the Final Four for the first time since the 2009 edition in Tianjin.
Lebanon now turns its attention to Middle East rival Jordan, which earlier stunned Iran, 91-76, on Saturday.
China missed the semifinals for the second straight tournament after finishing fifth in 2017 in Zouk Mikael.
Arakji's hot streak allowed Lebanon to build a 16-point lead, 51-35, midway through the third quarter but the Cedars lost grip of that lead as he sat on the bench due to foul trouble.
Zhou Qi tied the game at 66 with 3:01 left to set up the frantic finish, but Arakji was there to string five straight points, the last giving the Cedars the 71-66 edge with 41.3 seconds remaining.
Jiang Weize drained a three as Team Dragon kept on fighting, with Jonathan Arledge keeping the window open with just a split in the last 11.5 ticks. But Gu Quan muffed both of his freebies and Arledge was there to stop his potential game-tying right corner three as Lebanon escaped with the win.
Arledge dropped 16 points and 11 boards for the Cedars, as Sergio El Darwich also contributed 10 points, six rebounds, three assists, and three steals.
It was a tough defeat for China which relied on Qi's 22 points and 21 rebounds on top of his three blocks and two assists to keep the game close in the end.
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