Mighty Sports-Creative Pacific Philippines made the country proud once again, becoming the first non-Middle Eastern club to win the Dubai International Basketball Championship crown.
In another show of force – not to mention championship class – the PH club came through with a massive third quarter attack to dethrone Al Riyadi of Lebanon, 92-81, in the 31st edition of the prestigious tournament before a wildly-cheering Filipinos fans at the Shabab Al-Ahli Club in the United Arab Emirates.
Chants of “Mighty! Mighty!” reached its highest level when former Ateneo King Eagle Thirdy Ravena strung up five points capped by a booming triple that gave the team backed by Oriental Game, Go for Gold, Discovery Primea and Gatorade a 68-51 bubble late in the third frame.
There was no stopping Mighty Sports-Creative from winning its second straight international tournament from then as the Renaldo Balkman, Andray Blatche and Fil-Am Mikey Willians continued to wreak havoc on the Lebanese club’s defense.
The Charles Tiu-mentored team even hiked its lead to 21 early in the payoff period on the way to a seven-game sweep of the championship which many thought would not be possible after struggling to win two of their four games in the group elims.
“It’s great! It’s a great feeling as we made up for a heartbreaking loss in the semis last year. This year it feels nice,” said the boyish-looking young tactician who thanked fans for giving the team the extra boost in battling against taller and beefier rivals.
The title sweep was Mighty Sports’ third since winning Taiwan’s Jones Cup in 2016 and 2019.
“We are overjoyed with the team’s latest achievement, we never thought to win the event much more by a sweep despite the short time of preparation,” said Mighty Sports owner Alexander Wongchuking. “Given another chance, we will continue to compete here or even in Taiwan just to give Filipino migrant workers a different entertainment.”
Balkman led the team for the second straight game with 25 points and 9 boards while Blatche capped his seventh-straight double-double show with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Williams, who is playing for the Gensan Warriors in the MPBL, boosted his stock in the event he joins the PBA by scattering 13 points spiked by three triples while adding three assists in almost 33 minutes of action.
The 6-foot-2 Ravena wound up with only six points, two assists and a rebound in 22 minutes of play but his hustle somehow helped Mighty pull away from a tight first half.
Mighty Sports-Creative 92 – Balkman 25, Blatche 21, Williams 13, Moore 11, Kendrick 10, Ravena 6, Malonzo 4, Go 2, Gomez de Liaño 0, Belga 0.
Al Riyadi 81 – Efevberha 26, Jackson 20, Haidar 14, Arakji 10, Bawji 6, Saoud 3, Mneimneh 2, Townes 0, Akl 0, Gyokchyan 0.
Quarters: 24-20, 46-42, 74-57, 92-81.