Strong Group-PH bows out of contention in Dubai
MANILA, Philippines — Strong Group-Philippines bowed out of contention following a 106-97 loss to Al Riyadi in the quarterfinal round of the 32nd Dubai International Basketball Championship on Friday (Manila time) at Al Nasr Club Hall.
Strong Group had no answer for Amir Saoud, who unleashed 17 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter. The Lebanese national team star’s scoring binge helped Al Riyadi pull away from an 81-all deadlock thanks to an 11-0 run with 3:08 remaining.
BJ Andrade’s triple cut the deficit to four, 101-97, with 34 seconds left but Al Riyadi’s Dominic Johnson kept Strong Group at bay with his free throws.
Al Riyadi exacted sweet revenge against the Philippine team, which ruled the 31st edition under the banner of Mighty Sports.
“Painful and frustrating loss for us. Couldn’t stop Saoud today no matter what we did. Just too experienced for our team right now. Offense wasn’t the problem but couldn’t get stops,” said coach Charles Tiu.
“Thank you to our Filipino fans for supporting us. We are sorry for the loss. We will come back stronger for sure.”
Tiu also took a swipe at the officiating.
“Didn’t help that we got cooked badly. I don’t know what game the refs we’re watching.”
Aside from Saoud, who fired seven three-pointers, Johnson also powered the Lebanese side with 23 points and seven rebounds. National team member Wael Arakji and Atel Majok contributed 13 points each, while Gyok Haykchan added 12.
Shabazz Muhammad, once again, led Strong Group with 27 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and one block as they ended their campaign with back-to-back losses after winning their first three games in the group stage.
Renaldo Balkman posted a double-double of 16 points and 15 rebounds, while Justine Baltazar, who missed the Korean Basketball League’s registration deadline due to this Dubai stint, was the top local with 13 points, eight rebounds, three steals, and one assist.