DUBAI – As he congratulated his Mighty Sports team and gave his final reminders following another victory on Saturday night, coach Charles Tiu gathered his players for the final huddle before blurting out their battle cry for the night.
“Focus!” his wards declared together, a chant that was heard outside the locker room where almost a hundred fans were waiting to have photos taken with their favorite members of the team.
Mighty certainly needed that reminder after letting its guard down before holding on to an 86-78 win over the United Arab Emirates national team at the Shabab Al Ahli Club for its second straight victory to book a quarterfinal ticket in the Dubai International Championship.
After all, the Philippine representative had to go through some anxious moments in the last few minutes after letting UAE go on a run that forced Tiu to bring one of his three imports in Justin Brownlee back in the game to restore order.
“They gave us a tough test,” Tiu said after the game. “I’m not happy with how the game turned out. If we play this way in the next few games, we’re gonna lose. We’re not gonna make it past the quarterfinals.”
“I’m not happy because I wanted to give the other guys a chance to play and they kind of took the game a bit for granted, and just wanted to have fun,” he added. “So hopefully they learn from this experience.”
The result was an encore to an 87-58 rout of American University in Dubai the night before, on the way to already doubling their win total from two years ago when they made a disappointing debut in the annual invitational tournament.
Mighty led by as many as 20 points, 72-52 late in the third quarter, before seeing UAE embark on a comeback that cut the lead to a single-digit margin, 84-75, with a little less than four minutes remaining in the game
Brownlee returned and put the exclamation point in the form of a slam dunk with a minute and 57 seconds left off a nifty Jason Brickman feed to send the crowd wild.
Brownlee finished with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, 11 rebounds, and two assists, while Randolph Morris showed his inside-outside game by putting up 20 points, including two treys, on top of seven boards, and two assists.
Brickman dished out seven assists in all, while also chipping in four points, three caroms, and one steal in 25 minutes as the court general.
it was Roosevelt Adams’ turn to flash his potential as the Filipino-American wingman tallied 18 points, built around two triples, along with two steals, and one rebound in less than minutes off the bench.
Mighty Sports, owned by Alex and Caesar Wongchuking and backed by SMDC, Go For Gold, Oriental Group, and Healthcube, goes or a hat-trick of wins as it takes on Homentmen of Lebanon on Sunday night.
Tipoff is 9 p.m. (1 a.m., Monday, Manila time).
Mighty Sports 86 - Morris 20, Brownlee 18, Adams 18, Gray 9, De Liano 9, Brickman 4, Gutang 4, Santillan 2, Banal 2, Odom 0, Wongchuking 0, Rike 0.
UAE 78 - Al Zaabi 19, Alshabibi 18, Abdullah 14, Khalifa 8, Issa 8, Khalfan 7, Ibrahim 2, Al Nuaimi 2, Ndiaye 0. Quarterscores: 29-24, 49-36, 78-58, 86-78.