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Mighty Sports advance to Dubai semifinals with win over Iraq

Mighty Sports Philippines booked a spot in the semifinals of the 30th Dubai International Basketball Championship with a 108-94 victory against Al Nift Oil from Iraq.

The Philippine team, which topped Group B by sweeping all four of its games, were matched up with Al Nift Oil who finished fourth in Group A after their lone win against Jordan.

Justin Brownlee once again led the team in scoring and did not appear to be slowed after bruising his knee against Al Wahda in the final game of group play. Brownlee scored 26 points to go with 8 rebounds and 7 assists.

"Not really surprised with Justin playing after the injury because he knew how important the game was to us and he's really a winner," said head coach Charles Tiu after the game.

The talented import got key contributions from the locals with Juan Gomez de Liano, Jeremiah Gray, and Roosevelt Adams chipping in 21, 20, and 19 points, respectively.

It was the best offensive performance for Mighty Sports in the tournament as they made 16 3-pointers in the game and led by as much as 23 points.

A layup from Tayloe Taylor with 3:32 remaining trimmed Mighty Sports' lead to six points, 98-92, but the Philippine team got key baskets from Brownlee, Jason Brickman, and Randolph Morris to put the game away.

Morris had another double-double for the Philippine team with 16 points and 11 rebounds while Brickman was once again a steady presence at point guard with 6 points, 4 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Mighty Sports started the game by torching Al Nift Oil's defense. Gomez de Liano and Morris scored 10 points apiece in the opening quarter as they raced to a 29-18 lead. Mighty Sports then unleashed a barrage of triples in the second to try and break the game wide open. Consecutive makes from Gray, Brownlee, and Adams stretched their lead to 21 points, 41-20, halfway through the period.

However, the Philippine team committed uncharacteristic turnovers at the tail end of the first half, which opened the door for an Al Nift Oil comeback.

Led by Qutaiba Aldoori, the Iraqis went on a 13-3 run in the final 90 seconds of the second period to cut their deficit to a more manageable 11 points, 57-46.

Brownlee exploded with 11 points in the third period to power the offense for Mighty Sports and ballooning their lead to 23, 85-62, late in the period off a triple from Gray.

"Our 3-point shooting was great," Tiu said. "We built the team with a bunch of guys who can shoot, that's the way we want to play. It went in today so good for us but we have to be ready in case they don't fall. We still need to work on our defensive lapses and our turnovers."

Mighty Sports' 13 turnovers led to 20 points for Al Nift. American-born Iraqi DeMario Mayfield had a team-high 26 points in the game while Taylor contributed 20. Karrar Hamzah was their top-performing local as he doubled his per game average by scoring 20 points.

With the win, Mighty Sports will now take on Al Riyadi of Lebanon, the second-ranked team in Group A. Al Riyadi reached the semifinals with a 96-74 win against Al Wahda. On the other side of the bracket are Homenetmen and Beirut Club, making Mighty Sports the only non-Lebanese team in the final four.