Mighty Sports Philippines bows to Al Riyadi Beirut

BY JEREMIAH M. SEVILLA

Mighty Sports Philippines lost 84-89 to Sporting Al Riyadi Beirut of Lebanon in the semifinals of the 30th Dubai International Basketball Championship at the Shabab Al Ahli Club in United Arab Emirates on Friday night (Saturday morning in Manila).

The Charles Tiu-coached Filipino ball club fought valiantly, reducing a 24-point deficit to four points but eventually ran out of steam in the closing minutes.

Mighty Sports’ five-game unbeaten run was halted by the same Al Riyadi squad that beat them, 95-100, in 2017.

It was the Philippines’ best finish in the Dubai tilt though, eclipsing its one-win in five outings record two years ago.

PBA resident import Justin Brownlee led Mighty with 24 points on top of four rebounds and as many assists. The 6-foot-7 American forward also ignited the team’s fourth quarter comeback.

American big man Randolph Morris chipped in 21 points, eight boards and two blocks while Filipino-American wingman Jeremiah Gray added 17 markers, five rebounds, a dime and a steal.

Mighty was lagging behind, 42-66, as Al Riyadi scored from beyond the arc with impunity in the third frame.

Led by Brownlee, the Filipino squad closed the gap, 72-76, on Morris’ strong drive to the hoop with 7:54 left in the game, much to the delight of the Filipino fans in attendance.

But Al Riyadi’s guard WaelArakji and forward Dominic Johnson hit cold baskets to nullify Mighty’s late rally.

Arakji tallied a team-high 23 points even as Johnson chalked 20 markers, powering the Lebanese powerhouse club to the finals.

Mighty is battling Homenetmen Beirut Basketball Club for the third-placer plum at press time.

Mighty beat Homenetmen, 96-89, in their elimination round tussle on Monday.