The undefeated run of Mighty Sports in the 30th Dubai International Basketball Championship ended in the semifinals as the Philippine representative absorbed an 89-84 loss to Al Riyadi of Lebanon. The result sent Al Riyadi into the grand finale against another undefeated team in Sports Club Beirut.
A powerhouse in Lebanon, Al Riyadi has also shown they are a force to contend with in regional club competitions with two reigns at the FIBA Asia Champions Cup in 2011 and 2017. Now they'll be gunning for another title in Dubai, a title they won for the first time back in 2005.
It was a gallant stand for the Philippine squad who faced a deficit as big as 24 points in the third quarter but fought until the very end. After opening the second half holding a 14-point lead, 54-40, Al Riyadi had an early explosion from beyond the arc with Wael Arakji, Hayk Gyokchyan, Dominic Johnson, and Jean Abdelnour hitting consecutive threes to build a massive 66-42 separation.
However, instead of falling apart, Mighty Sports battled back as they quickly went on an 11-0 run powered by Jeremiah Gray. They continued to toil until they got the deficit down to nine points, 76-67, heading into the final period.
Imports Randolph Morris and Justin Brownlee did their best to give Mighty Sports a chance to steal the game in the end but Al Riyadi proved to be the steadier team in the dying minutes as they showed the poise of a squad that has been together for a while now.
Mighty Sports got their deficit down to just four points, 76-72, early in the final period but that would prove to be the closest they'd get. They missed out on a few opportunities to inch even closer as they gave up crucial offensive rebounds for Al Riyadi in the end game.
Brownlee led Mighty Sports with 24 points, four rebounds, and four assists while Morris did his part with 21 points and eight rebounds. Gray was the only local who scored in double digits for Mighty Sports with 17 markers.
"We had a good run in the end game but we committed a few lapses," said head coach Charles Tiu. "We were right there but I counted at least four offensive rebounds that we allowed them to get and those made it harder for us to get back."
Al Riyadi only had a slim lead in terms of rebounds with 38 compared to 32 for Mighty Sports but they were able to control the boards at the most opportune moments. They also displayed better chemistry with 19 assists in the game while the Philippine side only had 11.
Arakji powered Al Riyadi with 23 points on an efficient 10 of 16 shooting from the field while adding four rebounds and five assists while their import Johnson chipped in 20.
Al Riyadi lost their group stage match against Sports Club Beirut, 93-81, but now they are hoping to win the more important game for the title.
Mighty Sports still has one more game left to play as they're scheduled for their own rematch against Homenetmen of Lebanon for the right to finish third. Mighty Sports defeated Homenetmen in the group stage 96-89 even with a 42-point explosion from Walter Munoz. The match will be shown live on 5 Plus with livestream on ESPN5.com starting at 10:00PM.