The clash between the two U16 juggernauts of Dubai came to a thrilling finish as The Philippine School (TPS) fended off a ferocious comeback by Our Own Al Warqaa to win 58-57 and remain unbeaten.
The schools came into the match-up tied atop Pool A with impressive victories in the opening weekend and needed every last second to decide their battle at GEMS Sports Academy yesterday.
With five seconds left in regulation and the score tied at 57 apiece, Ivarn Maghirang of TPS drew a foul and nailed a clutch free throw to put his team ahead.
He missed the second attempt, but a full-court pass by Our Own went out of bounds as time expired to seal the win for TPS.
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“I just told the boys to keep on running because like our last game, it was a team of big guys again. But this team was talented throughout,” TPS coach Edward Enriquez said.
“I told our boys to keep our composure and keep the ball rolling.”
John Carlo Bautista once again led the way with a team-high 28 points as he was nearly unstoppable finishing at the basket.
Our Own trailed by as much as nine points in the fourth quarter, but responded with a run to close the gap and pulled even in the final minute on a fast-break layup by Renston Crasta.
The lanky forward delivered the top individual performance of the tournament so far with a massive 36 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter when his team needed it the most.
Despite the loss, Our Own coach Earnest Humanth Kumar feels his squad will be better prepared should the two teams meet again in the quarter-finals.
“Next time we’ll definitely be ready,” Kumar said.
“We know the game now because we haven’t seen this team before. We only play with Indian teams, so we never come across Filipino teams.
“Now we know the game they’re playing so we’ll plan according to that.”
Our Own also came up short in U14 as GEMS Modern Academy pulled away down the stretch for a 39-27 victory.
Ainul Abid used his height to drop 21 points for Our Own, but the defence of GEMS made him earn each score.
Whenever Our Own advanced past the half-court pressure, GEMS doubled Abid within their 3-2 zone to force him into difficult shots.
Offensively, GEMS used a balanced attack with Adhessh Kataria’s 14 points setting the tone.
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“It was really hard against quite a strong team, but it was a really good game,” Kataria said.
“I feel happy because I helped my team a lot, but altogether our team played very well.”
The other U16 contest on the day saw Sharjah’s New Indian Modern School (NIMS) dismantle Pakistan Islamia Higher School (PAK) 52-4 for their first win, while Delhi Private School (DPS) Sharjah defeated NIMS 29-24 in U14.
Two games resulted in forfeits by NIMS Dubai against The Indian High School in both U16 and U14.
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