Dubai, United Arab Emirates—Defense proved to be the key for Mighty Sports-Philippines down the stretch as it overcame a rugged Syrian side Al Wahda, 85-81, on Tuesday night to complete a four-game sweep of the group stage in the 30th Dubai International Basketball Championships at Shabab Al Ahli Club gym here.
Justin Brownlee, banged up and all, finished with 27 points and nine rebounds, while sparkplug Roosevelt Adams caught fire in the final period where he pumped in 10 of his 21 points but it was Mighty Sports’ collective desire to play lockdown defense that enabled them to recover from a 76-70 deficit with four minutes left.
The hard-earned victory, carved out in front of a sizeable and raucous Syrian crowd that virtually matched the noise created by the ever-usual fervent Filipino supporters, assured Mighty Sports of the top seed in their group ahead of the knockout stages, starting with the crossover quarterfinals on Thursday.
“I’m just happy with the win,” said Mighty Sports coach Charles Tiu. “We talked about at the start of the tournament, I told the team that we still haven’t faced adversity, and that when the time comes, we have to stick together, so today, we faced a lot of adversity: we’re down late in the game.
“But I’m happy with what we did defensively more than anything, because like I said, offensively, we have gifted players. We don’t have to do anything too complicated. We stick to everything, keep it simple, play to our strengths. Offensively, it will take care of itself. But defensively, we got stops when it mattered.”
After former NBA veteran Jordan Adams drilled in triple that stretched Al Wahda’s lead to six, Mighty Sports, co-owned by Alex and Caesar Wongchuking, came back to life behind its rejuvenated defense which sparked a decisive 11-0 run, highlighted by Brownlee’s go-ahead triple and Jason Brickman’s 10-footer for an 81-76 lead, with 101 seconds to play.
Members of the apparel and accessories team backed by SMDC, Go For Gold, Oriental Group, and Healthcube, however, held their bated breath when Brownlee went down hard after rejecting Adams’ lay-up and stayed on the floor for a few minutes.
The medical staff tried to put Brownlee on a stretcher, but the well-loved Ginebra import politely refused, drawing cheers from the Filipino crowd. He, however, was taken out for good by Tiu as Adams and the rest of his teammates put on the finishing touches.
“It’s a good thing now, he seems to be okay. Hopefully, he’ll be able to shrug it off come Thursday,” added Tiu. “(It will be a) very big rest day for us tomorrow. We’ll do some team activity together, but come Thursday, we have to be prepared.”
Adams, who saw action for the Memphis Grizzlies for two seasons, finished with 22 points while Al Wahda’s 7’1” center Abdulwahad Alhamwi registered 13 points and 12 rebounds but was posterized by Mighty Sports wingman Jeremiah Gray with a vicious tomahawk dunk in the second period.
MIGHTY SPORTS (85)—
Brownlee 27, Adams 21, Morris 19, Brickman 7, Gray 6, Gomez de Liaño 5, Odom 0, Santillan 0, Banal 0
AL WAHDA (81
)—Adams 22, Abdullah 16, Alhamwi 13, Arbasha 11, Brown 10, Ali 6, Alosh 3, Hamad 0
8-23, 41-41, 60-65, 85-81.