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Strong Group ends up with Wael Arakji, Al-Riyadi in Dubai QFs as Lebanese side stunned by Beirut

Kenny Hayes dropped 30 points on Wael Arakji and Al-Riyadi to help Beirut seal the top seed in the Dubai International Basketball Championship. FIBA (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—Gilas Pilipinas pool member Jerom Lastimosa might get a first glimpse of how Lebanese basketball star Wael Arakji plays like before they could potentially meet later this month in the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers sixth window as Strong Group ends up with Al-Riyadi in one quarterfinal of the Dubai International Basketball Championship.

Al-Riyadi missed out on sweeping Group B of the preliminary round after dropping its final assignment against cross-city rival Beirut Club, 76-88, early Thursday (Philippine Time) at the Al-Nasr Sports Club in Dubai.

In the rematch of last year's Lebanese Basketball League Finals, Beirut repeated over Al-Riyadi after quickly pulling away in the first half before sustaining its brilliance in the second half.

Kenny Hayes exploded for 30 points on 11-of-16 shooting with three rebounds, four assists, and two steals, while Mohamad Haidar added 23 points, 12 rebounds, one assist, three blocks, and three steals for Beirut.

Amir Saoud led Al-Riyadi with 23 points, five rebounds, and five assists in a game where Arakji was held to only seven markers.

With the result, Beirut and Al-Riyadi ended up tied with Club Africain on top of Group B with identical 2-1 records, but following the quotient tiebreaker, Beirut clinched the top seed, Africain took the second seed, and Al-Riyadi dropped to the third seed.

This means Beirut will face the host team United Arab Emirates and Africain will battle Al-Nasr in two more quarterfinal ties.

The other quarterfinal battle will see winless Sale taking on undefeated Dynamo, the other Lebanese team in the nine-club field.

A 10th team, Al-Naft, was invited to be part of Group B, but the club pulled out at the last minute, effectively assuring the other four teams in the said group quarterfinal berths.

Strong Group and Al-Riyadi will face off at 1 a.m. Friday (Philippine Time) in their quarterfinal match.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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