MANILA, Philippines – Mighty Sports needed all the help it could get from import Renaldo Balkman as the squad survived a late rally from AS Sale Morocco, 80-76, on Friday, January 31 for a spot in the 31st Dubai International Basketball Championship finals.
Balkman backpacked for the Philippine team with a tournament-high 29 points on an 11-of-16 clip to seal Mighty’s first finals appearance after falling in the semis last year.
As Mighty held a 12-point lead, 78-66, at the 3:20 mark in regulation, AS Sale erupted for a crucial 10-2 run in the clutch, capped off by back-to-back and-one buckets by Abderrahim Najah to inch within 4, 76-80, with 1:36 left.
However, the Moroccans failed to capitalize on their late momentum as import Wayne Arnold bricked a triple after a Thirdy Ravena miss and an Andray Blatche traveling violation.
Najah then missed an easy two with 24 ticks left as Mighty dribbled out the clock for the win.
Despite the late miscues, Blatche balled out as well for his fellow Filipinos as he flirted with a triple-double off a 17-point, 11-rebound, 8-assist line.
Fil-Am guard Mikey Williams rounded out the team’s double-digit scorers with 12 markers on a 3-of-7 shooting from deep.
Najah and Sofiane Kourdou paced the six-man AS Sale rotation in the loss with 20 points apiece while Radhouane Slimane chipped in 14 markers, all coming in the 2nd half alone.
With the finals berth now in the bag, Mighty awaits the winner of the second semifinal match between Hoops Lebanon and Al Riyadi Beirut Lebanon, which booted the Philippine team out of contention in last year’s tournament.
Mighty Sports 80 – Balkman 29, Blatche 17, Williams 12, Ravena 7, Malonzo 6, Kendrick 5, Moore 4, Gomez de Liano 0, Go 0, Belga 0.
AS Sale 76 – Najah 20, Kourdou 20, Slimane 14, Arnold 11, Elmasbahi 6, Almahini 5.
Quarters: 25-15, 44-34, 66-55, 80-76.