Gallant stand by Mighty Sports
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - March 1, 2017 - 12:00am

Mighty Sports’ final standing in the recent 28th Dubai International Invitationals hardly reflected the impact that coach Charles Tiu’s squad made not only on the Filipino OFWs in the Emirates but also on the opposition that showed the highest respect for the only Southeast Asian entry in the seven-team tournament.

Mighty dropped its first five games – 83-75 to AS Sale of Morocco, 84-82 to the Egypt National Team, 95-92 to Sagesse of Lebanon, 100-93 to Homenetnem of Lebanon and 100-95 to Ali Riyadi of Lebanon – before ending the tournament on a high note with a 94-80 romp over Ball Above All of the US. Mighty wound up sixth of seven.

It was a gallant showing by Mighty, considering Tiu assembled the crew barely two weeks before heading to Dubai to face teams that had been together for years. “Lack of preparation was the biggest issue,” said Tiu, a former Gilas and Barako Bull assistant coach with Rajko Toroman. “We thought we could compensate by playing two imports plus Marcus (Douthit) as our naturalized player. We had about eight practices together and one complete practice the day before the tournament started. We went up against teams that were in the middle of their respective tournaments. We had only one tune-up game against Blackwater but they played us with only 10 players and no import so essentially, our first serious tune-up was our first game in the tournament.”

* * * *

Mighty was reinforced by imports Justin Brownlee, Hasheem Thabeet and Dominic McGuire but only two of them could play at the same time. The bonus was Douthit was considered a “local” so Tiu could deploy two imports plus one in his formation. But Douthit had solid numbers only against AS Sale with eight points and 12 rebounds. He was a non-factor the rest of the way. Thabeet was another disappointment. Against Homenetnem, Thabeet was good for only three rebounds while Willie Miller, who stands about a foot and a half less, grabbed six. Thabeet’s best showing was a double-double with 16 points and 12 boards against Al Riyadi but it wasn’t enough to book a win.

Brownlee averaged 25.5 points for Mighty and Tiu said even at 6-5, he’d be a factor for Ginebra in the coming Commissioner’s Cup where the import limit is 6-10. “If Greg (Slaughter) comes back and Japeth (Aguilar) continues to play at a high level, Ginebra will be competitive with Justin,” said Tiu. “Imagine even without Greg, Ginebra’s in the Philippine Cup Finals.”

Tiu brought along locals Kiefer Ravena, Jeron Teng, Beau Belga, Gary David, J. C. Intal, Ryan Arana, Jett Manuel and Chris Tiu to Dubai. There were moments of brilliance for everyone. Ravena hit 25 against Sagesse but hurt his shooting hand during a scramble for a loose ball in the Homenetnem game and sat out the last two contests. Ravena will rest for three weeks before returning to the US where he’s training with the Texas Legends of the NBA D-League. Teng delivered 22 points against Ball Above All. David sizzled for 19 against Homenetnem and 15 against Ball Above All. Miller had 17 and Intal 10 against Homenetnem.

* * * * 

Tiu singled out David for his outstanding performance. “Gary can still shoot it,” said Tiu. “He could be a strong role player in the PBA. Our locals played well in Dubai. As a team, we went out there for our Filipino OFWs who showed up for our games cheering passionately.  We fought for them. In four of the five games we lost, we were a possession away from winning. We were getting better every game but ran out of time. If we had just one or two more weeks of practice, maybe, we could’ve gone to the finals. AS Sale won the tournament and we were competitive against them in our first game.”

Officiating was another factor that Mighty had to contend with. Mighty gave up about 30 free throws a game and couldn’t get a break. Then, Mighty battled high-caliber imports like 6-1 ex-University of Maryland guard Terrell Stoglin, who torched Tiu’s squad for 46 points, including nine triples, in the Sagesse game, 6-1 ex-Iowa State guard Michael Taylor and 6-11 ex-University of Connecticut center and naturalized Lebanese Atek Majok of Homenetnem, 6-11 ex-Georgia Tech center Alade Aminu and 5-11 ex-Philander Smith guard Ken Brown of Al Riyadi and 6-3 ex-University of Arkansas at Little Rock guard Brandon Freeman of AS Sale. Lebanese star Fadi El Khatib also saw action for Homenetnem.

 “It was hit-or-miss with our imports,” said Tiu. “Thabeet wasn’t what we expected. McGuire didn’t turn out to be a big-time scorer. Even Marcus played way below par. Despite our shortcomings, we were in a position to win every game. My hope is somehow, we can bounce back, make bawi. There are no tournaments in the pipeline at the moment but who knows? Maybe, we’ll get another chance to show what we’re capable of doing. Our consolation is we gave it our all for our Filipino OFWs. That’s something we’re proud of.”

CHARLES TIU
Philstar
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