The Philippines’ Strong Group Athletics went on a clean sweep to close the group stage of the Dubai International Basketball Championship.
With a team lineup stacked with former NBA players, local superstars, and national team standouts, Strong Group Athletics came into the Dubai International Basketball Championship as one of the favorites to win. As former Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard said before the tournament started, “I think everyone’s going to be gunning for us.”
The team has thus far proven that they are, in fact, one of the teams to beat. Strong Group Athletics closed the group stage with a clean sweep, going on a 5-0 win-loss record. Here are some major highlights from their spotless run.
Coming into the tournament, all eyes were on the two NBA veterans on the Strong Group Athletics squad — Dwight Howard and Andre Roberson — and they definitely showcased their caliber.
In the Philippine team’s first game of the Dubai International Championship, former Oklahoma City Thunder player Roberson recorded 15 points, 16 rebounds, and three blocks, while former NBA All-Star Howard took his share of 14 points, six rebounds, and two steals. With these numbers, they led SGA to an 82-66 victory over the hosts, United Arab Emirates, to open their campaign on a high note.
Quiambao leads the charge
Despite Strong Group Athletics’ NBA star power, it was Kevin Quiambao who has arguably been the team’s best player of the tournament so far. In the group stage, he has been recording team-high averages — roughly around 18 points, four rebounds, and three assists per game.
The reigning UAAP men’s basketball MVP was shining straight away in the competition. In the team’s second game, he scored a game-high 24 points, with perfect shooting from beyond the arc. In the succeeding game, he again went off playing against Homenetmen-Lebanon, tallying 19 points, four rebounds, and four assists.
With these numbers, Quiambao has been a weapon for the Philippine team and has been turning heads. In fact, the United Arab Emirates has reportedly expressed an interest in naturalizing the Filipino.
Blatche shines again
In SGA’s third game of the tournament, the team relied upon former Gilas Pilipinas star Andray Blatche to keep their chances for a clean sweep in the group stage going. With just over seven minutes left on the clock, Homenetmen-Lebanon was leading SGA, 77-76. But this is where Blatche came in.
In the fourth quarter alone, the 37-year-old scored 15 points, all from the three-point line, to push the Philippines to a 104-95 victory.
Closing with a bang
Entering their last group stage game with a 4-0 record, the pressure was certainly starting to build. Playing against Libya’s Al Ahly Tripoli, the Strong Group Athletics squad was down by 12 points in the first quarter. However, the team was quick to find their groove and turn things around.
By the end of the first half, they managed to take a one-point lead coming into the second. However, with just over two minutes left in the game, the Libyan side caught fire to go on a 6-0 run and find themselves within one point of SGA.
But, it was Jordan Heading who sealed the deal. Shooting two free throws, he extended the team’s lead to take a 91-89 victory, finishing the group stage with a clean record. On top of this, Heading also led SGA’s overall scoring, hitting 19 points off the bench.
Overall, it seems that Strong Group Athletics’ clean record has been a team effort thus far. With every man playing their role on the team, they will be coming into the next round with confidence on their side.
Banner image from Strong Group Athletics on Facebook.