by Rey C. Lachica
Game Monday (Shabab Al Ahli Club)
1 a.m. – Mighty Sports vs Homenetmen (Lebanon)
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Former LA Lakers star Lamar Odom badly missed a three-point shot – his one and only scoring attempt – but there was no stopping Mighty Sports from advancing to the quarterfinals of the 30th Dubai International Basketball Championship on Saturday night here.
With Justin Brownlee putting on another dazzling show and University of the Philippines star Juan Gomez de Liano and Fil-Am Roosevelt Adams providing the early spark, Mighty Sports downed the national team of the host country, 86-78, for its second straight win in Group B elims of the 10-club tournament.
Though cheered on lustily by more than 2,000 Filipino migrants that almost filled the Shabab Al Ahli Club, the 6-foot-10 Odom was surprisingly gun-shy this time, electing to do the other things on the court and end up with only five rebounds and an assist in 14 minutes of action.
Mighty Sports coach Charles Tiu offered no explanation to Odom’s scoreless performance but was obviously upset with the way his wards closed out 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,” said the 30-year-old mentor and younger brother of retired Rain or Shine guard Chris Tiu.
“I’m not happy because I wanted to give the other guys a chance to play and they took the game a bit for granted, and just wanted to have fun,” he added. “So hopefully they learn from this experience.”
The team co-owned by Alex and Caesar Wongchuking and backed by Go For Gold, Healthcube, Oriental Group, and SMDC, looked headed to another runaway win after racing to a commanding 20-point lead (72-52) late in the third quarter.
But to Tiu’s chagrin, his wards suddenly went cold offensively, thus allowing the host the country to tantalizingly close in and forcing him to recall Brownlee.
The resident import of Ginebra in the PBA immediately restored order with a thunderous dunk off a perfect feed from Fil-Am Jason Brickman, thus drawing another wild celebration from the crowd.
American import Randolph Morris led Mighty Sports with 20 points on an impressive 6-of-7 shooting from the field while Brownlee finished with a double-double with 18 points and 11 boards.
Mighty Sports started to pull away in the second quarter as Adams buried two triples while de Liano awed his defenders with some fancy moves.
Adams collected 18 points while de Liano chipped in 9 points aside from tallying 4 four assists.
The win was a fitting follow-up to an 87-58 rout of American University in Dubai a night ago, doubling its one-win showing two years ago in this annual tournament that gathered some of the finest clubs in the Middle East.
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.
Quarters: 29-24, 49-36, 78-58, 86-78.