Lamar Odom drained a clutch 3-pointer in the closing seconds as the Mighty Sports rode a late surge to edge the Magnolia Hotshots in a tune-up game, 98-97, at the Ronac Art Center Gym in San Juan.
Known as one of the PBA’s stronger teams, Magnolia proved a tougher opponent for the Dubai-bound squad as the Hotshots set the pace early in the game led by stars Peter June Simon, Paul Lee and Mark Barroca.
The Hotshots, who just won the championship in the last PBA Governor’s Cup, led Mighty Sports by six points, 43-49, at halftime.
Mighty still kept trailing Magnolia and only managed to come close through a tie, 79-79, with 9 minutes left in the third quarter.
A late rally led by Mighty big men Justin Brownlee and Randolph Morris, who finished with 25 and 24 points respectively, prompted a come back after facing a double-digit deficit.
Lamar Odom, who finished with 7 points, sealed the deal with a crucial 3-pointer and the team’s first lead, 98-96, at the 0:44 mark of the final period leading his teammates to celebrate his shot in an uproar.
“I was wide open. Finally, I was able to hit a shot,” said Odom after the game. “I was wide open but it was a big shot at the right time, I guess.”
Head coach Charles Tiu, meanwhile, lauded his team for the win noting that both imports and local players are playing well. But the youthful mentor pointed out the team’s transition defense and execution still needed work.
“We need to capitalize on match-ups where we have the advantage,” Tiu said.
“We’re slowly improving as we go along, but I would not consider us ready yet,” he added.
Team co-owner Alexander Wongchuking was pleased with the outcome of the two tune-up matches. He expects the team to fare better this time around compared to their early round exit two years ago.
“I’ll be happier if we can at least reach the semis, plus, I’m confident that coaches Charles, Jong (Uichico), Woody (Co), Dean (Castano) and TY (Tang) can bring out the best from this team,” said Wongchuking.
Mighty Sports-Philippines will leave for Dubai on Thursday morning to begin its quest for redemption in the 30th Dubai International Basketball Championship scheduled February 1 to 9.
The team is sponsored by Go For Gold, Healthcube, Oriental Group and SMDC and owned by brothers Alexander and Caesar Wongchuking.
Photo by Bryan Olivan