Mighty survives El Khatib eruption for Dubai opener win
MANILA, Philippines – Mighty Sports Philippines held back a feisty UAE national team, 88-82, to clinch its first win in the 31st Dubai International Basketball Championship on Friday, January 24.
Import guard Jelan Kendrick caught fire in the second half and finished with a team-high 19 points as the NBA-level duo of Andray Blatche and Renaldo Balkman added 15 markers apiece.
Fil-Am guard Mikey Williams also chipped in 15 points, none more important than his last 3 in the final 1:14 of regulation for the 82-78 lead.
It was a much-needed bucket for the Charles Tiu-coached squad as they saw their double-digit 1st quarter lead evaporate in the 3rd frame thanks to the hot hand of 40-year-old Lebanese legend Fadi El Khatib.
Local star Qais Alshabebi also caught fire late in the game, as he ripped the ball from Blatche’s hands and coasted to the cup for the 75-74 lead with 3:10 left in regulation.
From there, both teams would trade makes and misses from the charity stripe until Blatche sank the go-ahead shot from the line, 79-78, with 1:47 remaining.
UAE tried to recover quickly from Williams’ clutch trey, but a fatigued El Khatib blanked his trip at the line, leading to a game-sealing Balkman dunk, 84-78, in the final 53 ticks of regulation.
El Khatib went down swinging in the opening loss with a game-high 30 points in 37 out of a possible 40 minutes on the floor. Alshabebi chipped in 27 markers in the losing effort as Mighty draws first blood in the annual tournament.
Mighty will have no time to rest on their laurels as they next face Syria’s Al Itihad at 11 pm on Friday, January 24, Philippine time.
Mighty Sports 88 – Kendrick 19, Balkman 15, Blatche 15, Williams 15, Malonzo 8, Moore 8, Ravena 2, Gomez de Liaño 2, Go 2, Belga 2, Ildefonso 0.
UAE 82 – El Khatib 30, Alshabebi 27, Alnuaimi 6, Ayman 6, Almaazmi 5, Albreiki 5, N’Diaye 3, Sultan 0, Alajmanni 0.
Quarters: 22-16, 41-37, 63-65, 88-82.