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Strong Group PH falls to Dynamo, suffers 1st loss in Dubai tilt

Despite basically playing for only three quarters, Cleanthony Early exploded for Dynamo. Getty Images (file photo)
By Pao Ambat

MANILA—After two impressive wins following a near-collapse in their opening game against UAE, Strong Group Philippines fumbled down the stretch and suffered their first defeat at the 32nd Dubai International Basketball Championship after an 89-83 loss against Dynamo Lebanon early Thursday (Philippine time) at the Al-Nasr Sports Club. 

Dynamo Lebanon leaned on an 11-2 finishing kick in the last 2:54 seconds of the game to deny Strong Group PH a sweep of the group stage matches while securing the top spot of its group with an unblemished 4-0 slate. 

Cleanthony Early, who did not check into the game until the final 48 seconds of the opening frame, hit two crucial three-pointers down the stretch that proved to be the difference maker for Dynamo as they outscored Strong Group PH, 24-15, in the payoff period. 

His go-ahead three-pointer gave the Lebanese side an 82-81 advantage with 2:17 ticks left in regulation, their first lead since the closing moments of the second quarter. 

After a Sedrick Barefield missed triple, Early hit the dagger trey in the left wing with 48 seconds left in the game to give Dynamo the much-needed cushion, 85-81 and they never looked back. 

The six-foot-eight Early finished the game with 29 points, eight rebounds, and four assists in almost 28 minutes of action off-the-bench while Zachary Lofton and Thomas Ibrahima added 17 and 16 markers respectively. 

On the other hand, former NBA player Shabazz Muhammad led the way anew for Strong Group with 25 points, nine boards and three dimes as another ex-NBA cager Reynaldo Balkman had a quiet 10-point, nine-rebound game. 

Adamson point guard Jerom Lastimosa started strong and scored 12 points in the first half but was limited to two points the rest of the game while former NBA champion Nick Young had 11 markers. 

 Strong Group PH started slow and found themselves in an early 14-4 hole but managed to recover and hold a 45-41 lead by the end of the second quarter. 

The Charles Tiu-mentored team registered their biggest lead after a BJ Andrade triple gave them a 55-47 edge in the early moments of the third frame. 

Despite outrebounding and out-assisting their Lebanese counterparts, Strong Group PH was outscored in the fast break points, 23-9, and in bench production, 39-35. 

They will face now face the No.3 team in Group B in the knockout quarterfinal round that will start on Thursday and Friday.  

The Scores: 

STRONG GROUP PHL 83 - Muhammad 25, Lastimosa 14, Young 11, Balkman 10, Barefield 7, Andrade 4, Baltazar 4, Quimbao 4, Cagulangan 2, Gozum 0, Fornilos 0.

DYNAMO  89 – Early 29, Lofton 17, Ibrahima 16, Ezzeddine 7, Khalil 9, Ibrahim 7, Khoury 1, Mahmoud 0, Salibi 2. 

Quarters: 17-19, 45-41, 68-65, 83-89.

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