Dubai, United Arab Emirates―Juan Gomez de Liano finally played true to his potential as Mighty Sports-Philippines sustained its fine form against Al Nift Oil Sports Club-Iraq, 108-94, on Thursday night to clinch the last semifinal ticket in the 30th Dubai International Basketball Championships.
The fast-rising scoring guard from University of the Philippines dished out his finest offensive performance yet with 21 points, spiked by five of the team’s 16 triples, that more than made up for his game-worst eight errors as Mighty Sports stretched its winning streak to five games after sweeping the four-game group stage.
More importantly, the accessories and apparel team backed by SMDC, HealthCube Medical Clinics, Go for Gold and Oriental Game completed the Final Four cast and earned the right to square off with powerhouse Al Riyadi, one of the perennial title contenders in Lebanon’s professional league.
“We’re gonna be in for a big test,” admitted Mighty Sports coach Charles Tiu of Al Riyadi, which humbled Al Wahda-Syria, 96-74, in their own semis encounter.
“They are like (Barangay) Ginebra or San Miguel (Beer) in Lebanon. They are one of the respected clubs in the whole of Asia. Once you hear their name, everybody knows Al Riyadi. It’s gonna be a big challenge for us. And I call us the underdogs even if we’re the top seed from our group. I hope we can make it past against them.”
They could if and when Mighty Sports dribblers can come up with another impressive performance that has thrilled throngs of Filipino supporters, including Philippine Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes, as they been filling up the sizeable Shabab Al Ahli Club gymnasium here since the opener of the 10-team, nine-day tournament.
Justin Brownlee shrugged off a bruised left knee with another scintillating showing of 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists even as Fil-Ams Jeremiah Gray and Roosevelt Adams combined for 39 points, 27 of them coming from beyond the arc, and big man Randolph Morris added 16 points and 11 rebounds.
It was the 6’1” De Liano, however, who stole the spotlight with his accurate sniping this time, repaying the trust given to him by Tiu who inserted him into the starting lineup in lieu of steady playmaker Jason Brickman.
“I think this was Juan’s best game offensively,” said Tiu. “But I keep reminding him that I need him to just grow up a bit more. I know I’m asking a lot from a 19-year old, but he had eight turnovers in the game, right? It’s already a given that he’s a scorer. I knew he would no doubt he’d be able to score in this tournament.”
MIGHTY SPORTS (108)
—Brownlee 26, De Liano 21, Gray 20, Adams 19, Morris 16, Brickman 6, Odom 0, Santillan 0, Gutang 0.
OIL SPORTS 94
—De Mario 26, Taylor 20, Hamzah 20, Aldoori 9, Ismael 6, Algburi 3, Alammari 0.
29-18, 57-46, 85-66, 108-94.