Asian basketball

No stopping flawless run as Strong Group reaches semis in Dubai

Delfin Dioquino

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No stopping flawless run as Strong Group reaches semis in Dubai

SUPERMAN. Dwight Howard in action for Strong Group Athletics in the 2024 Dubai International Basketball Championship.

UAE Basketball Association Facebook page

Steady outings from Dwight Howard and Andre Roberson and the consistent play of Kevin Quiambao pull Strong Group Athletics closer to its goal of ruling the Dubai International Basketball Championship

MANILA, Philippines – A disappointing quarterfinal exit in the Dubai International Basketball Championship last year is officially a thing of the past for Strong Group Athletics.

Banking on its reliable reinforcements, Strong Group earned its place in the final four after scraping past AS Sale, 92-80, in the knockout quarterfinals at the Al Nasr Club on Friday, January 26 (Saturday, January 27, Manila time).

Former NBA standouts Andre Roberson and Dwight Howard steered unscathed Strong Group to its sixth consecutive victory as it inched closer to becoming the second team from the Philippines to capture the Dubai crown.

Mighty Sports Philippines first achieved the feat in 2020.

Roberson posted 18 points and 9 rebounds, taking over in the crucial stretch to help put away the stubborn Moroccan crew that managed to claw its way back into the game despite trailing by twin digits on multiple occasions.

AS Sale got within 71-78 with under six minutes left before Strong Group unleashed a 9-0 blitz highlighted by 6 straight Roberson points for its biggest lead.

Howard put up a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds, while McKenzie Moore also finished with 17 points on top of 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.

Kevin Quiambao, a member of the Strong Group squad that got the quarterfinal boot last year, made sure there will be no repeat of that disappointing ending as he supplied 15 points and 5 assists.

Other locals stepped up, with Justine Baltazar (8 points and 5 rebounds) and Jordan Heading (6 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists) living up to their roles as starters.

American import Ramon Galloway tallied 27 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists for AS Sale, which held the upper hand in the early parts of the first half before Strong Group found its touch.

Off a 26-26 deadlock midway through the second quarter, Howard scored 5 points in an 18-5 run that allowed Strong Group to prop up a 44-31 advantage.

Up next for Strong Group in the semifinals on Sunday (Manila time) is Lebanese crew Beirut Sports Club, a team that the Philippine side crushed by 22 points in the group stage.

The Scores

Strong Group 92 – Roberson 18, Howard 17, Moore 17, Quiambao 15, Baltazar 8, Heading 6, Blatche 4, Ynot 3, Cagulangan 2, Liwag 2, Escandor 0, Sanchez 0.

AS Sale 80 – Galloway 27, Williams 20, Al Quraishi 6, Benchlikha 5, Kourdou 4, Buqisho 4, Al Mohseni 2, Benabou 2. 

Quarters: 19-21, 44-36, 67-59, 92-80.

– Rappler.com

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.