DUBAI – Mighty Sports showed the resilient Filipino spirit before dropping an 89-84 decision to Al Riyadi on Friday night at the Shabab Al Ahli Club to fall short of its title aspirations in the Dubai International Basketball Championship.
Facing a perennial contender that coach Charles Tiu described as the “Ginebra or San Miguel of Lebanon,” the Philippine dribblers fell into a deep 23-point hole twice, but climbed and came to within five points down the stretch before surrendering the close decision in their semifinal match.
Justin Brownlee sparked the comeback, putting up a game-high 24 points, four boards, four assists, one steal, and one block with less than two minutes of rest.
“I like the way we fought back,” Tiu said after the game. “You have to appreciate the effort of the guys. Medyo naunahan lang kami sa start, We couldn’t defend their ball screens. Their shooters were hot.”
Al Riyadi asserted its mastery of Mighty after scoring a 100-95 win in their meeting in 2017.
Regardless of the result, Mighty can already call its campaign a success after collecting five wins following its campaign two years ago where the squad only won once in seven games.
Mighty, though, showed signs of life. Roosevelt Adams and Randolph Morris converted two charities each to cut the deficit to five, 87-82, with a minute and 31 seconds left, but Christopher Obekpa, making his presence with his defense all-game long, retaliated with a midrange jumper to silence the side of the crowd full of OFWs at the jampacked venue.
Wael Arakji showed the way for the Lebanese side as the tall, lefty point guard pounced on his mismatch against Mighty playmakers Jason Brickman and Juan Gomez de Liaño with 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting, five assists, and four boards in 35 minutes.
Morris provided support to Brownlee as usual, chipping in 21 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks, while Jeremiah Gray was the other Mighty player who scored in double figures with 17 on top of five caroms, one assist, and one steal for the squad owned by Alex and Caesar Wongchuking and backed by SMDC, Go For Gold, Oriental Group, and Healthcube.
Mighty settles for the next thing as it takes on Homenetmen, which the PH club beat in the group stage, in the battle for third on Saturday night at 6 p.m. (10 p.m., Manila time).
AL RIYADI 89 – Arakji 23, Johnson 20, Saoud 12, Abdelnour 10, Abdelmoneim 9, Gyokchyan 8, Obekpa 7, Bowjee 0, Khatib 0.
MIGHTY SPORTS 84 – Brownlee 24, Morris 21, Gray 17, De Liano 8, Brickman 8, Adams 4, Santillan 2, Odom 0, Banal 0.
Quarterscores: 26-20, 54-40, 76-67, 89-84.