It was Andray Blatche’s turn to shine Friday as Mighty Sports notched its second straight win with a 77-72 decision over Syria’s Al Ittihad in the 2020 Dubai International Basketball Championship at the Shabab Al Ahli Club.
The 6-foot-10 Blatche mocked all guards thrown at him, firing 28 points in an impressive 10-of-17 shooting from the field, apart from posting 11 rebounds, two assists, and a block as Mighty Sports grabbed the early Group B lead in the 11-club tournament.
The former reinforcement of Gilas Pilipinas was at his best in the second quarter where he anchored Mighty’s decisive breakaway, outscoring their rivals, 23-9, for a 42-32 halftime advantage.
Though Mighty – backed by Creative Pacific of Bong Cuevas, Go for Gold, Oriental Group, Discovery Primea, and Gatorade – was in control of the game from there on, it needed a huge trey from Blatche to finally take the fight out of the Syrian club which threatened at 74-70.
Team owner Alex Wongchuking and coach Charles Tiu were quite relieved this time, claiming their wards played much better this time than their opening game where they had to grind it out against host United Arab Emirates before prevailing, 88-82, on Thursday.
“Happy about the win. Much better performance for us,” said Tiu. “It’s like our second official game only, we have to take it a notch higher though.”
“Good thing, Dray made his shots this time. The last one was huge,” said Wongchuking. “I hope our local players, will again take the spotlight the next time.”
He was ably supported by Renaldo Balkman who also produced a double-double with 15 points and 10 boards.
Guard Mikey Williams, the hero in Mighty’s opening game where he scored 15 points, was gun shy this time, missing his two attempts from the trifectaville. He managed only three assists in 25 minutes of action.
For a while, Mighty appeared headed for a breezy win when they took a 61-47 lead early in the payoff period but the Syrian club rallied behind the guns of Aubrey Coleman.
Former La Salle player Jamie Malonzo, ex-Ateneo’s Isaac Go and comebacking Ateneo star Dave Ildefonso made good account of themselves by combining for 16 points.
Mighty Sports will have a two-day break before facing ES Rades on Monday at 11 p.m.
Mighty Sports (77) – Blatche 28, Balkman 15, Moore 9, Malonzo 6, Go 5, Ildefonso 5, Kendrick 4, Belga 3, Ravena 2, Williams 0, Ju. Gomez de Liano 0.
Al Ittihad (72) – Coleman 30, Merjaneh 9, Saddir 8, Cheikh Ali 6, Alhamwi 5, Adribi 4, Saleh 4, Arbasha 4, Jilati 2, Aljabi 0.
Quarterscores: 19-23, 42-32, 59-47, 77-72.