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Ismail Ahmad deals Strong Group heartbreaker as Al-Riyadi Beirut repeats as DIBC champ

Ali Mansour drives to the lane against Jordan Heading. UAE Basketball Association
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Ismail Ahmad broke the hearts of Strong Group Athletics as he hit the game-winner to give Al-Riyadi Beirut its second straight Dubai International Basketball Championship title with a 77-74 win early Monday (Philippine Time) at the Al-Nasr Sports Club.

The veteran big man showed that he still got game at age 47 as he scored a buzzer-beating three off a Wael Arakji kickout pass that broke the deadlock to the delight of the Lebanese side of the bleachers as Al-Riyadi escaped a huge second-half comeback by Strong Group.

Al-Riyadi led by as much as 19 points in the game, the last at 57-38 with 6:18 left in the third quarter.

However, Strong Group responded with a 27-4 run spilling to the fourth quarter to go up, 65-61, with 8:25 left.

However, Strong Group went cold midway through the fourth, paving the way for Al-Riyadi to go on an 11-0 run to take the lead back, 72-67, with 3:06 to play.

Strong Group did not give up and went on a 7-2 run capped by a game-tying three from Jordan Heading for a 74-all tie with 1:03 remaining.

Strong Group had a chance to retake the lead after Elmedin Kikanovic missed a jumper on the other end, but Andre Roberson missed a long three with the shotclock winding down.

Arakji grabbed the rebound and raced to the other side of the court, and he attracted a double-team enough for him to find Ahmad wide open for the game-winner.

Former NLEX import Manny Harris led Al-Riyadi, which completed an 8-0 sweep of the entire DIBC, with 23 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

Arakji added 16 points, three rebounds, and three assists.

Roberson finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, and three steals for Strong Group, which missed out on the championship for the second straight year after once again getting beaten by Al-Riyadi in a knockout playoff.

Dwight Howard added 18 points, 12 rebounds, one block, and one assist for Strong Group in a game where Kevin Quiambao, who entered the final as the team's leading scorer, was held scoreless in nearly 37 and a half minutes.

Box Scores:

Al-Riyadi Beirut 77-Harris 23, Arakji 16, Ahmad 10, Kikanovic 7, Zeinoun 6, Gyokchyan 5, Sakanini 5, Saoud 3, Mansour 2, Tabbara 0

Strong Group 74-Roberson 24, Howard 18, Heading 17, Moore 12, Blatche 3, Quiambao 0, Baltazar 0, Cagulangan 0, Escandor 0

Quarterscores: 22-12, 44-30, 61-57, 77-74

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno

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