Mighty Sports becomes first team from outside Middle East to win Dubai crown

Mighty Sports Philippines won its first Dubai Basketball Championship on Sunday with a 92-81 victory over reigning champ Al Riyadi. Dubai Basketball Championship

Mighty Sports Philippines clinched its first Dubai International Basketball Championship crown with a 92-81 victory over reigning champ Al Riyadi in Sunday's final at the Shabab Al Ahli Club.

Renaldo Balkman and Andray Blatche paired up once more for the Philippine contingent, which completed a sweep of the field to become the first non-Middle Eastern country to win the invitational tournament.

Balkman fell just short of a double-double, posting 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting to go with nine rebounds. Meanwhile, Blatche came up huge once more with 21 points and 10 boards, four assists and two steals.

"It's great. It's a great feeling," coach Charles Tiu said. "I was there watching my brother in the finals and losing a heartbreaker, and then our own semis loss last year. This year it feels nice. Just nice. [This is] for all the fans who have contributed to support us."

With Mighty Sports up just four at halftime, the duo combined for 10 points in a tide-turning 15-3 run for a 61-45 lead midway through the third. Mighty repeatedly sought out Blatche in the post, where the naturalized center set the tone.

Mikey Williams increased the lead to a game-high 21 points at 78-57 when he beat the shot clock with a stepback jumper early in the fourth quarter.

The Lebanese club sliced the lead to 12 when Dwayne Jackson hit the last of his four fourth-quarter triples with 4:20 to go, but it was never able to threaten as Mighty cruised the rest of the way.

Williams added 13 markers on 3-for-5 shooting from deep for Mighty. McKenzie Moore (11 off the bench) and Jelan Kendrick (10) also reached double-digit scoring.

Thirdy Ravena (six points, two assists) and Jamie Malonzo (four points, three rebounds, two assists) turned in efficient showings for the Philippines, which improved on last year's third-place finish against the same club that booted the team in the semifinals.

Mighty shot 56 percent from the field, was 9-for-22 on 3s and played its most efficient game of the tournament with just eight turnovers. The club also contained what appeared to be an outstanding offensive performance in the making from Michael Efevberha -- he torched Mighty for 20 first-half points but produced only six in the second.

"This team is special, we've got guys who we will see play for the national team one day," Tiu said. "Just a great group of guys. We were a young team but we were able to just find a way."

Jackson chipped in 20 for Al Riyadi, and Ali Haidar and Wael Arakji threw in 14 and 10, respectively. Al Riyadi wrapped up its campaign with a 6-1 card.


MIGHTY SPORTS 92 -- Balkman 25, Blatche 21, Williams 13, Moore 11, Kendrick 10, Ravena 6, Malonzo 4, Go 2, Ju. Gomez de Liano 0, Belga 0.

AL RIYADI 81 -- Efevberha 26, Jackson 20, Haidar 14, Arakji 10, Bawji 6, Saoud 3, Mneimneh 2, Townes 0, Akl 0, Gyokchyan 0.

Quarters: 24-20, 46-42, 74-57, 92-81.