Asian basketball

Quiambao-Howard dream tandem excels anew as Strong Group cruises to 1st Dubai final

JR Isaga

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Quiambao-Howard dream tandem excels anew as Strong Group cruises to 1st Dubai final

MAJOR FORCE. Strong Group's Dwight Howard grabs a rebound against Beirut Sports Club.

UAE BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION

Strong Group import Dwight Howard drops a monster 20-20 line, while local star Kevin Quiambao continues to make his game look easy on the way to a breakthrough Dubai tournament final

MANILA, Philippines – Former NBA superstar Dwight Howard and reigning UAAP MVP Kevin Quiambao – an on-court tandem once lying beyond the realm of what was thought possible – continued to make magic happen for Strong Group Athletics in the 33rd Dubai International Basketball Championship.

With one being 38 years old and the other 22, both stars shone as if in their athletic primes as the Philippine-based squad cruised to its first-ever final off a 94-72 dismantling of Beirut Sports Club on Saturday, January 27 (Sunday, January 28, Manila time).

Howard, a former NBA champion and eight-time All-Star, turned back the clock a decade or so in the do-or-die semifinal with a massive 26-point, 20-rebound double-double, while Quiambao continued to make rumored international suitors salivate with 18 easy-looking points – 12 coming in the first half alone.

Reigning MPBL MVP Justine Baltazar likewise put his name out there with a 15-point effort on an efficient 6-of-8 clip and 2-of-4 from three, as former PBA import McKenzie Moore directed the offense with 7 points, a game-high 11 assists, and 5 boards.

Veteran guard Dar Tucker paced the loss with 22 points, while Alexander Saleh tallied a 19-point, 11-rebound double-double.

Now awaiting Strong Group in the winner-take-all game on Sunday night is mighty defending champion Al Riyadi Lebanon, still touting local sensation Wael Arakji.

Notably, this matchup echoes the Philippines’ last appearance in the tournament’s final in 2020, when Mighty Sports – boasting former NBA players Renaldo Balkman and current Strong Group veteran Andray Blatche – dethroned Al Riyadi to mark the first time a non-Middle Eastern team won it all.

Since then, the pandemic halted the tournament’s operations for two years before Strong Group took over the Philippines’ slot in 2023, only to crash and burn in the knockout quarterfinal despite tagging along ex-NBA shooters Nick Young and Shabazz Muhammad.

With clearly no expense spared in its preparations, the Frank Lao-owned team is now one win away from a tournament sweep and sweet redemption, unless Al Riyadi plays its role of underdog champion to perfection.

The Scores

Strong Group-Philippines 94 – Howard 26, Quiambao 18, Baltazar 15, Heading 10, Moore 7, Roberson 6, Sanchez 5, Escandor 3, Cagulangan 2, Liwag 2, Ynot 0.

Beirut Sports Club-Lebanon 72 – Tucker 22, Saleh 19, El Darwich 8, Haidar 6, Rabay 6, Mahmoud 3, Mehzer 3, Mechref 0.

Quarters: 22-17, 50-34, 73-49, 94-72.

– Rappler.com

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