Former NBA star Dwight Howard was the catalyst for Strong Group as Kevin Quiambao and Andray Blatche’s late scoring surge propelled the Philippine team past a gritty Homenetmen-Lebanon squad, 104-95, at the 33rd Dubai International Basketball Championship on Sunday.
Howard led the way for the Philippine squad with 32 points on a near-flawless 12-of-13 shooting inside, along with strong defense tallying 7 rebounds and 5 blocks.
Naturalized Filipino center Blatche exploded for 15 of his 18 points in the pivotal fourth quarter, knocking down 5 three-pointers to lift Strong Group when they needed it most.
UAAP phenom Quiambao continued his stellar play amongst veterans, recording an efficient 19 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
Despite 37 points from ex-Meralco import Zach Lofton, Lebanon could not overcome the all-big trio of Howard, Blatche and Quiambao. The Philippines held off the feisty Lebanon side to earn the hard-fought victory.
Imports Andre Roberson and McKenzie Moore scored 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Unlike in their previous two games, Strong Group faced difficulty in the first half as they trailed Homenetmen for most of it before regaining some control towards the end of the third quarter, with the score 69-63.
The Philippine team, which was briefly down by two points at 73-71, saw Blatche start their fourth-quarter scoring with four consecutive three-pointers to eventually give Strong Group an 87-79 advantage.
However, Lofton kept aggressively pursuing Strong Group — scoring his 14th point with 2:38 left in the game to give Homenetmen a chance to come within five points at 96-91.
Even though Lofton was fired up, Quiambao had the last word by making a last minute three-pointer and sealing the win with a slam dunk.
The Philippine team raced to its third consecutive victory in as many days after starting the tournament with an 82-66 win against the UAE national team, followed by an 89-67 rout of Al Wahda Syria in their second game.
Lebanese player Gerard Hadidian led Homenetmen with 21 points and seven rebounds, while Elijah Holman nearly had a double-double with 18 points and nine rebounds.
Strong Group and Al Ahli Tripoli are leading Group B with three wins each, while defending champion Al Riyadi is on top of Group A after back-to-back wins.
After three tiring days of play, the Charles Tiu-coached team will get a one day rest before facing off against Sports Club Beirut on Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 1:15 a.m. Manila time.