Dubai, United Arab Emirates — Former Los Angeles Lakers star Lamar Odom struggled for the second straight game but Mighty Sports-Philippines still had enough firepower to overcome UAE national team, 86-78, on Saturday night and secure its seat in the quarterfinal round of the 30th Dubai International Basketball Championships.
Reinforcements Justin Brownlee and Randolph Morris delivered solid numbers while playmaker Jason Brickman and Juan Gomez de Liano provided stability and fellow Fil-Am Roosevelt Adams emerged as the sparkplug off the bench as Mighty Sports earned a fitting follow up to its 87-58 win over American University in Dubai in the opener last Thursday.
More importantly, the accessories and apparel team backed by SMDC, HealthCube Medical Clinics, Go for Gold and Oriental Game already surpassed its one-win showing back in 2017 and, in the process, secured the first ticket to the next round of the most prestigious invitational cage tournament in the Middle East.
The 6-foot-10 Morris led the attack with 20 points, including two triples, despite not sitting out the entire fourth period even as Brownlee tallied a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds that more than made up for Odom’s scoring dud in 13 minutes of action at the Shabab Al Ahli gymnasium here.
Not to be outdone was the 6-foot Brickman, who set the tone with his crafty playmaking ability up and finished with a game-high seven assists, highlighted by a no-look feed for Brownlee for a tomahawk dunk in the crunch.
But it was the 6-foot-5 Adams who impressed Mighty Sports coach Charles Tiu the most. The College of Idaho standout sizzled with 18 points on a near flawless 7-of-8 shooting from the bench and proved solid on the defensive end in 18 minutes of play.
“I like the way Adams played today. He was solid defensively. He played excellent played so hard, hustle so hard,” he said.
However, Tiu admitted he’s still far from satisfied, saying his charges still have plenty to work on as they plunge back to action for the third straight time on Sunday night against formidable Homenetmen-Lebanon at 9 p.m. (1 a.m. Monday, Manila time).
“What’s good is that we won and I expected us to win this game. But honestly this is not the level of the tournament,” he said. “They are the national team and they actually gave us a tough test today.
“Actually I am not happy with how the game turned out. If we play this (kind of) game the next few days, we’re going to lose. We might not make it past the quarterfinals,” he said, practically referring to their backups who struggled to sustain the energy and allow the hosts to entertain hopes of a big comeback in the stretch.
Rashid Al Zaabi finished with 19 points while Omer Alshabibi came up a rebound shy of a double-double with 18 points for UAE, which cut what once a 20-point deficit to just 10 at 74-84 with four minutes remaining.
Then Tiu, sensing a big disaster could be in the offing, inserted Brownlee and Brickman back “to stabilize our team.”
And his ploy paid off as the two starters connected for a picture-perfect play that sent throngs of Filipino crowd, including Philippine Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes, up on their feet with an 11-point spread going to the final two minutes.
“He (Brickman) is just great finding guys. That pass to Brownlee was really amazing,” said Tiu.
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.