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No one could have scripted a more dramatic semifinal game at the FIBA ASIAN Championships at the Mall of Asia Arena. The Philippines faced rival South Korea who had eliminated the Filipinos in other international basketball competitions in 1986, 2009 and 2011. But SMART Gilas Pilipinas finally took the monkey off their back by winning a nail-biting game 86-79 off a Jimmy Alapag trey in the last minute.
The win earned not only a finals slot against IRAN, Sunday August 11 but also an assured ticket to the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain. The event is considered as the most prestigious international basketball tournament, second only to the Olympics and is also held every four years. Participating cities include Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Bilbao and even the Canary Islands.
The Filipino trait of heart and resilience showed itself in this game more than any other. As early as the 6:25 mark of the 2nd quarter, naturalized center Marcus Douthit re-aggravated a shin injury forcing him out of the game. With a towel covering his face due to pain on his way to the dug out, players and fans thought this would be an even more difficult battle. Ranidel De Ocampo also one of SMART Gilas’ centers had already been called 4 fouls at this point.
The Pinoy frontline made up for Douthit’s loss with tenacity underneath the boards and fearless scoring inside the paint. Marc Pingris would be the Best player of the game with 16 points and 10 rebounds. As Douthit sat on the bench Pingris scored a semi hook late in the 2nd Quarter after Seung Jun Lee was called for a goal tending violation. The next play Pingris got a crucial offensive rebound and shot free throws to cut the Koreans’ lead 36-39 at half time.
To open the 3rd quarter Talk N Text point guard Jason Castro Williams went on a tear. His quick first step allowed him to blow by his guard and score 6 points off lay ups by the 7:20 mark giving SMART Gilas a 42-39 lead. After a tip in to push the lead Pingris himself had to be taken out of the game momentarily due to a hamstring injury. Ranidel De Ocampo scored off baskets inside the paint. But Korean guard Mingoo Kim had streaky 3-point shots to keep the game close. By the end of the 3rd quarter Japeth Aguilar was able to have an emphatic slam to give SMART Gilas a 65-56 lead.
The Koreans came back in the 4th quarter through fast breaks and 3pt bombs from Tae Sul Kim, Mingoo Kim and Seung Sun Lee. Mingoo had a 4-point play 4:43 mark helping them cut the lead 73-72. In spite of the strong surge, SMART Gilas had contributions from other players like L.A. Tenorio with timely treys. South Korea eventually took the lead off a Tae Sul basket 77-76 closing in to the last 2:35.
Ranidel De Ocampo’s hook shot got the lead back in 2:12, 77-78. The most crucial play came from Pingris’ steal from Korea’s star center Joo Sung Kim which led to a De Ocampo trey. After that Alapag sealed the game with another 3 pointer going into the last minute to put the Filipinos up permanently. Gabe Norwood also came up with a crucial block with 45 seconds to go on Mingoo Kim who had been sinking 3pointers the whole night.
The success in this particularly historic game is the culmination of hard work, organization, financing and faith from a host of companies led by SBP (Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas) President Manny V Pangilinan. Analyst Yeng Guiao noted that having the FIBA Games held here was a huge factor in the success of the team. Their country mates offering encouragement and support spelled the difference for the Smart Gilas Pilipinas team that had seen so much heartbreak in previous tourneys.
Speaking at the TV5 Sports center PBA Coach Yeng Guiao said, “This is a very historic moment for Philippine basketball. Its not just an emotional win, can you imagine na unahan na natin ang CHINA? We’re at least no. 2 we can win a championship. Ang CHINA wala na. The only team that we haven’t beaten is IRAN. Actually di natin tinalo CHINESE TAIPEI it does not matter any more. We earned a ticket to the World Championship. It’s like going to the Olympics and we haven’t gone to the Olympics in a long time. We haven’t gone to the World Championship in a long time. We have to congratulate boss MVP the SBP President, coach Chot Reyes, the whole team because they deserve it. They really deserve it and they have the appreciation of the whole country right now.”
Philippines 86 – Castro/William (pts 17 asst 3), Pingris (pts 16 reb 10), Alapag (pts 14 reb 3), De Ocampo (pts 11 reb 6), (Tenorio pts 9 rebs 3), Aguilar (pts 8 rebs 4), Chan 5, Norwood (pts 2 block 1), Fonacier 2, Douthit (pts 2 blocks 2) , David 0, Fajardo 0.
South Korea 79 – M.Kim 27, J.Kim 11, Yang 11, S.Lee 10, J.Lee 10, S.Cho 6, S.Kim 2, S.Kim 2, Yoon 0, J.Kim 0.
Quarters: 15-19, 36-39, 65-56, 86-79