Mighty Sports survived the vintage performance of Fadi El-Khatib and pulled off a pulsating 88-82 win over host United Arab Emirates at the start of the Dubai International Basketball Championship Thursday at the Shabab Al Ahli Club.
Still sharp and agile at 40, the Lebanese legend playing as import for the tiny but oil-rich Middle East nation erupted for 30 points but it was Fil-Am Mikey Williams who stood out in the end of Group B action of the 11-team tournament.
The 6-foot-1 Williams gave the Alex Wongchuking-owned Mighty Sports an 82-78 breather with a trey following a UAE turnover – thanks to a perfect feed by naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche with 74 ticks left.
Backed by Creative Pacific of Bong Cuevas, Go for Gold, Oriental Group, Discovery Primea, and Gatorade, Mighty Sports hiked their lead to 84-78 after Williams found a cutting Renaldo Balkman for a jam.
The Emiratis – through the efforts of Rashed Ayman and El-Khatib – pulled to within 84-82, but Williams rose to the occasion once again by calmly sinking two pressure-packed charities before Thirdy Ravena sealed the deal with a layup off a defensive stop that had the crowd roaring in delight.
“It was a huge scare for us but we have to credit Mikey for showing great resolve. Big plays at crunch time,” said Wongchuking.
Mighty Sports coach Charles Tiu was a little disappointed with the team’s opening game but was still glad they were able to hurdle their first assignment.
“I have to be a bit more patient because this is technically our first game together. But give credit to UAE, they played well, got to the free throw line a lot and El-Khatib is still a great player at his age,” said Tiu.
“Mikey was also great. As I said I have complete trust in him,” said Tiu of his wily guard who finished with 15 points not to mention several wondrous plays.
Import Jelan Kendrick topscored for Mighty with 19 points while Blatche and Balkman chipped in 15 points each apart from grabbing 11 and 9 boards, respectively.
Mighty, which is out to improve on its third place-finish last year, was battling
Al Ittihad of Lebanon at presstime. The game will have a replay on ESPN5 at 3:30 p.m.
Mighty Sports (88) – Kendrick 19, Blatche 15, Balkman 15, Williams 15, Malonzo 8, Moore 8, Ravena 2, Go 2, Belga 2, Gomez de Liano Ju. 2, Ildefonso 0.
UAE (82) – El-Khatib 30, Alshabebi 27, Ayman 6, Alnuaimi 6, Almaazmi 5, N’Diaye 3, Sultan 0, Alajmanni 0.
Quarterscores: 22-16, 41-37, 63-65, 88-82.