Strong Group completes 33rd Dubai International Basketball Tournament prelims sweep

Kevin Quiambao and Strong Group are still undefeated in the ongoing Dubai International hoops tourney (UAE Basketball Association Facebook)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

The Strong Group Athletics pulled off its closest win of the ongoing 33rd Dubai International Basketball Championship tournament after edging Libya’s top squad, the Al Ahly Tripoli club, 91-89, last January 25, 2024 to complete a first-round sweep of the eliminations.

After taking down its four previous opponents with an average of double-digit margin, the Philippine-based basketball club found themselves in an uncanny situation against Tripoli.

From the get-go, Strong Group was caught off-guard by Tripoli’s quick offensive sets and wasn’t afraid to attack the interior to fish for fouls.

Aside from their aggressiveness in the paint, Tripoli also shot efficiently from the three-point line to help them establish an early 10-point lead against Strong Group.

However, head coach Charles Tiu of Strong Group made several crucial in-game adjustments when the second quarter kicked off.

From going to their main man ex-NBA star Dwight Howard, Strong Group moved the ball better and drained several wide-open shots from downtown.

The duo of Jordan Heading and Kevin Quiambao steered Strong Group to a much-needed comeback as they helped the team retake the advantage. Just when the Filipinos thought they could dominate their opponents again in the second half just like their past four meetings, the Libyan hoops club gave everything they had that made the game interesting.

Tripoli once again made it rain from the rainbow area to snatch the lead away, 78-81, midway through the fourth quarter.

Answering the call for Strong Group are its NBA veterans Howard, Andray Blatche, and Andre Roberson who just dominated the shaded lane that gave Strong Group a comfortable 89-82 lead with only 1:25 remaining in the game.

Tripoli tried to claw their way back after hitting several baskets to trim the lead to just a point, 89-88, but Heading sealed the deal for Strong Group after burying the two most important free throws with 20 seconds remaining.

Top-scoring for Strong Group is Heading with 20 big points followed by Howard who contributed 17 markers while the duo of Quiambao and Roberson combined for 30 points.