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Strong Group passes 1st acid test, rallies in 2nd half to edge Homenetmen

Dwight Howard was victorious over Zach Lofton in their scoring spree. UAE Basketball Association
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—Strong Group Athletics survived a gallant fight from Homenetmen to take home a 104-95 win in the Dubai International Basketball Championship early Monday (Philippine Time) at the Al-Nasr Sports Club.

Homenetmen took the fight to Strong Group early, taking a 24-17 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Strong Group played better in the second quarter and came to within one, 43-42, late in the period, but former Meralco import Zach Lofton scored on a floater and Dewayne Jackson fired a buzzer-beating three to extend Homenetmen's lead to six, 48-42, at the half.

Strong Group went full throttle in the third quarter, outscoring Homenetmen, 29-19, to take a 71-67 lead at the end of the quarter.

Homenetmen started the fourth period with a 6-0 run to take the lead again, 73-71, with 8:45 left, but following an exchange of baskets, Andray Blatche came alive from the outside, knocking down four three-pointers as part of a game-turning 16-6 run to put Strong Group back up, 92-83, with a little over three and a half minutes remaining.

Homenetmen still tried to come back in the game, but the team fizzled in the end especially when Lofton missed two of three free throws off a McKenzie Moore foul even as Kevin Quiambao put the exclamation point with a putback dunk.

Dwight Howard played his best game in the tournament, leading Strong Group, now 3-0 in the DIBC, with 32 points on 12-of-13 field goals and 8-of-9 free throws, seven rebounds, and five blocks.

Quiambao added 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting including 3-of-6 on threes, four rebounds, four assists, and one steal.

Strong Group will take the Monday off before battling Beirut Club early Wednesday (Philippine Time).

Lofton finished with 37 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and one steal for Homenetmen, which dropped to 0-2.

Gerard Hadidan added 21 points on 6-of-10 field goals, seven rebounds, and one assist, while Elijah Holman put up 18 points on a perfect 9-of-9 shooting and nine rebound off the bench.

Box Scores:

Strong Group 104-Howard 32, Quiambao 19, Blatche 18, Roberson 13, Moore 12, Baltazar 8, Heading 2, Sanchez 0, Cagulangan 0, Escandor 0

Homenetmen 95-Lofton 37, Hadidan 21, Holman 18, Khalil 2, Salem 1, Akiki 0, Ajemian 0, Chivichyan 0

Quarterscores: 17-24, 42-48, 71-67, 104-95

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno

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