A SLOPPY and disorganized Mighty Sports side got its act together just in time to turn back the United Arab Emirates national team, 88-82, on Friday at the start of the 31st Dubai International Basketball Championship.
Renaldo Balkman and Mikey Williams took over in the endgame when Mighty finally got just enough separation from a UAE side that showed a lot of fight under the leadership of Lebanese legend Fadi El-Khatib.
El-Khatib, 40, came away with 30 points while fellow veteran Qais Alshabebi added 27 for UAE, which led by as many as six points in the final half and gallantly kept the score tied at 78-all, with a little over two minutes left to play.
Mighty only took control in the endgame, when the Fil-Am Williams hit a clutch three-pointer for an 82-78 lead and - after a weary El-Khatib blew two from the free-throw line - Balkman cut loose for a dunk, 84-78.
A Rashed Ayman three-pointer cut the Mighty lead to three points, but Williams cooly sank two penalty free throws before Thirdy Ravena's layup had a good-sized crowd of mostly Filipino fans at the Shabab Al Ahli Club heaving a sigh of relief.
It was a breakout performance for Williams, stepping outside of the shadows of his fancied and younger teammates to pump 15 points on a 4-of-8 clip from beyond the arc, together with eight assists and six rebounds.
Balkman also added 15 points and nine rebounds, equalizing the production of naturalized center Andray Blatche, who also scored 15 points along with his 11 boards and two dimes.
Jelan Kendrick topped Mighty with 19 points built on four triples, to go with three rebounds in the victorious opener for the Philippine club, which is also supported by Creative Pacific Group, Go for Gold, Oriental Group, Discovery Primea, and Gatorade.
Mighty now turns its attention to Lebanese side Al Ittihad of Aleppo, with the game slated on Friday at 11 p.m.
MIGHTY SPORTS 88 -- Kendrick 19, Blatche 15, Balkman 15, Williams 15, Malonzo 8, Moore 8, Ravena 2, Go 2, Belga 2, Ju. Gomez de Liano 2, Ildefonso 0.
UAE 82 -- El-Khatib 30, Alshabebi 27, Ayman 6, Alnuaimi 6, Almaazmi 5, N'Diaye 3, Sultan 0, Alajmanni 0.
Quarters: 22-16, 41-37, 63-65, 88-82.