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Strong Group sent Morocco home, advances to semis

by Bryan Gadingan

STRONG GROUP ATHLETICS continued its dominance in the 33rd Dubai International Basketball Championships, by defeating AS Sale 92-80.

Strong Group trailed 5-12 in the first quarter as Morocco’s club squad got off to a blazing start.

With 7 minutes remaining in the first quarter, Justine Baltazar used a corner three to narrow the deficit in the decisive quarterfinals match.

AS Sale concluded the first frame with a two-point lead, beating the buzzer with a full-court pass and basket, 19-21.

But come the second quarter, Strong Group gained momentum and went on a 10-0 run led by a Jordan Heading corner three, an old school shifty Andray Blatche drive, and a thunderous slam by Dwight Howard.

SGA maintained control in the third quarter, leading 44-36, with Heading making another three-pointer. However, Al Sale trimmed the margin in the second half with their own 10-3 run. 

But McKenzie Moore and Andre Roberson, Howard’s fellow NBA alumni, buckled down to work..

Photo Courtesy: UAE Basketball Association | Facebook

Strong Group had an unstoppable sharpshooting performance on this night, as they had in previous games, and they caused a major problem for the Moroccan team, while the Philippine team’s goal for playoff redemption drove them to win this game.

From there, the Philippine-backed squad maintained their lead for the rest of the game, despite the Morrocans’ mini-runs, and clinched their semifinals spot, an official improvement over last year’s campaign.

SGA had another balanced game, highlighted by Roberson’s 18 points and nine rebounds, while Howard and Moore each scored 17 points.

“Rough start first half, how to get our bearings together. They gave us our best shot. Came out second half, put up a complete quarter together, and came out on top,” said Roberson.

“That’s what this is about, sticking together, fighting adversity, and come out with a win,” added Roberson, who has been a regular contributor throughout Strong Group’s games.

Meanwhile, Kevin Quiambao, who was said to have been promised a spot on the New York Knicks’ 2024 NBA Summer League team, put on another impressive performance, finishing with 15 points, two rebounds, and five assists.

Strong Group which kept their immaculate record of 6-0 will resume their title campaign in less than 24 hours, when they face a familiar opponent from the elimination round in Beirut. The game is slated for Sunday at 1:15AM Manila time.

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