Game on Friday (Saturday, Manila time)
8 p.m. (12 a.m.): Mighty Sports vs Al Riyadi
DUBAI –Mighty Sports turned it up a notch when the lights shone brighter, clicking on both ends of the floor to roll past Oil Sports Club, 108-94, on Thursday night at the Shabab Al Ahli Club and advance to the semifinal of the Dubai International Basketball Championship.
Living up to their tag as the top seed in their group, the Philippine dribblers thrived in a must-win situation, racing to an early lead by forcing stops on defense that turned into offensive sets that resulted in open three-pointers on the way to the blowout victory.
Justin Brownlee was fit to play and delivered another all-around performance, but it was Juan Gomez de Liaño who gave Mighty a big lift, tallying 21 points, built around five triples, three steals, two assists, one board, and one block that made up for his eight turnovers in 25 minutes as a starter.
“I like how the boys listened,” Mighty coach Charles Tiu said. “For once, they followed the gameplan, they respected our rules, that’s why we were really able to do a good job defensively,”
Mighty thus set up a Final Four faceoff against renowned Lebanese League heavyweight Al Riyadi on Friday night.
The only time Mighty showed vulnerability was late in the first half. Up, 54-33, with a minute and 40 seconds left in the second quarter, Mighty let its guard own a bit as it allowed its Iraqi foe to go on a 13-3 run to trim the gap at the half, although the Philippine club was still up by double-digits at 11 points.
After Tiu gave his wards an earful in the dugout pep talk, Mighty was all business as it padded to its lead that grew to as many as 23 points, 85-62.
“May times kasi talaga na we let up, but I think that’s normal in any basketball game,” Tiu said. “The other teams are good teams also, they will also fight back and do their best, and they did their best, but we were able to hold our ground and able to punch back.”
Not even the arrival of naturalized Lebanese guard Demario Mayfield could save Oil Sports Club, which flew in its prized ward on gameday just to play against Mighty.
Brownlee, looking healthy after sustaining a knee contusion that caused some uncertainty about his status, scattered 26 points, eight boards, seven assists, and two blocks without a turnover in 35 minutes.
Jeremiah Gray caught fire from long range, drilling six treys to finish with 20 points, five boards, one assist, and one steal, and zero turnover in 28 minutes, while Randolph Morris was the other Mighty player who scored in twin digits with 16 points on top of 11 rebounds, two assists, and one steal in almost 30 minutes.
Jason Brickman ran the offense with aplomb, dishing out 10 assists, on top of six points, four boards, and one steal in 30 minutes for the Mighty squad owned by Alex and Caesar Wongchuking and backed by SMDC, Go For Gold, Oriental Group, and Healthcube.
MIGHTY SPORTS 108 – Brownlee 26, De Liano 21, Gray 20, Adams 19, Morris 16, Brickman 6, Odom 0, Santillan 0, Gutang 0.
OIL SPORTS 94 – De Mario 26, Taylor 20, Hamzah 20, Aldoori 9, Ismael 6, Algburi 3, Alammari 0. Quarterscores: 29-18, 57-46, 85-66, 108-94.