Strong Group-Philippines found Al Riyadi star Amir Saoud too hot to handle and suffered a heartbreaking 107-97 defeat in their quarterfinal showdown in the 32nd Dubai International Basketball Championship early Friday at the Al Nasr Club Hall in Dubai, UAE.
The PH ball club put up a gallant stand when it wheeled back from a 14-point deficit early on before holding its ground against the taller and heftier Lebanese squad only to fall victim to superb snipings of Saoud who then took over for Al Riyadi in the fourth quarter.
The deadshot of the Lebanon national team erupted for 17 points of his team’s 32 in the final frame, including a pivotal five straight points that capped a telling 14-2 run, giving Al Riyadi a safe 95-83 lead from an 81-all count midway through the payoff period.
Saoud, who will lead Lebanon against Gilas Pilipinas on 24 February in Window 6 of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, went on to finish with 41 points built on seven triples against the team owned by Frank and Jacob Lao and backed by Mighty Sports and Acrocity.
Strong Group coach Charles Tiu admitted Saoud was the game-changer.
“Painful and frustrating loss for us. Couldn’t stop Saoud today no matter what we did. Just too experienced for our team right now. Offense wasn’t the problem but couldn’t get stops,” Tiu said.
The young coach vowed to return fully prepared and much stronger next year even as he thanked Filipino fans who bought expensive tickets to watch their game.
“Thank you to our Filipino fans for supporting us. We are sorry for the loss. We will come back stronger for sure,” Tiu added.
Saoud was ably supported by import Dominic Johnson, who added 23 points and seven rebounds as Al Riyadi exacted sweet revenge against a Philippine team after Mighty Sports denied it the title in the final of the 31st edition of the tournament.