By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
What looked to be a formidable Strong Group basketball squad finally tasted their first defeat in the ongoing 32nd Dubai International Basketball Championship last February 2, 2023, held at the Al Nasr Club Hall in Dubai, UAE.
Kicking off its title defense at Dubai with a 3-0 start, the Philippine-based hoops club was humbled by Lebanon’s Dynamo after receiving an 89-83 loss.
It was a painful sight to see as the Charles Tiu-mentored team failed to buy a basket in the most crucial stretch of the final canto.
Strong Group only scored a deuce in the last three minutes of the intense clash while leading for most of the game.
Despite the strong performance from collegiate superstar Jerom Lastimosa, Strong Group still crumbled in the last quarter and lost composure when Dynamo deployed several defensive switches.
“It was a tough loss. Led 60 percent of the game but fell short in the last few minutes. Their zone really stifled us and slowed us down,” said Strong Group’s chief tactician.
Lastimosa had his best scoring performance for Strong Group after tallying 14 points built from 6/9 shooting from the field.
This was the biggest challenge faced by Lastimosa after going up against bigger guards but his craftiness helped him win most of the possessions.
It was still former San Miguel Beermen import Shabazz Muhammad who led Strong Group with 25 points and nine rebounds but needed more help as Renaldo Balkman only chipped in 10 points and nine boards.
Strong Group started the first half shooting the ball well as Muhammad sank his signature one-handed leftie floaters at will.
However, Strong Group’s offense collapsed after Dynamo deployed their zone defense.
Strong Group will still have a chance to keep its campaign alive when they face off against the rolling Al Riyadi squad today.