INCHEON, Korea — Playing without the benched Marcus Douthit, Gilas Pilipinas’ courageous stand fell short against a hot-shooting Korean team, which came down from as many as 16 points to pull off a 97-95 win that slammed the door shut on the nationals’ campaign in the 17th Asian Games basketball competitions at the Samsan World Gymnasium here Saturday.
For a couple of minutes in the third, Gilas Pilipinas looked like the World Cup team the world fell in love with.
In a blazing third quarter, the nationals unleashed the full might of their arsenal, with LA Tenorio, Jeff Chan and Ranidel de Ocampo unleashing four treys to roar to a 16-point lead, 65-49. Gilas was so pumped up, it hit 68 with still 4:52 left in the third, the same score they managed all game-long against Qatar in a 68-77 loss a day earlier.
But Gilas lost its grip on the lead almost as quickly as it established it.
Oh Sekeun triggered an avalanche of Korean baskets with a twinner, fuelled by wily point guard Kim Taesul’s nine-point explosion, including a layup off a steal on Gilas forward Gabe Norwood, to come tantalizingly close at 67-70 from as high of 68-52, and then at 71-72 on a triple by veteran Cho Sungmin.
The FIBA Asia runners-up threatened to pull away again, 78-71, at the start of the fourth with a six-point salvo, capped by a split free throw from JuneMar Fajardo, but the Koreans finally seized the lead at 84-82 on a trey from their naturalized player Moon Taejong before Jimmy Alapag tied the count for the last time at 88-all.
Tenorio’s split gave Gilas its last taste of the lead at 89-88, but Yang Heejong clustered five straight markers, followed by two free throws from Moon as Korea built a 95-89 lead in the dying seconds from where the nationals never recovered from.
“I’m very proud of my boys. They fought hard. It was difficult to beat Korea on its own court, but we fought up to the very end. Unfortunately, we came up short,” said Gilas Coach Chot Reyes, who decided to bench naturalized player Douthit, who he accused of quitting in the game against Qatar.
Gilas Pilipinas will try to end its quarterfinal play on a winning note when it meets Kazakhstan today (Sunday) at 3:15 p.m. (Korea time) back at the Hwaseong Sports Gymnasium.
“The entire responsibility falls on my shoulders. I want to apologize to our people,” Reyes said after the loss, Gilas’ third straight in four games.
The Philippines, which was hoping to end a 52-year-old gold-medal drought in the Asiad, also lost to the Koreans in the semifinal rounds of both the 1986 Seoul and 2002 Busan Asian Games.