Thursday, September 22, 2011

Smart Gilas Pilipinas locks down on Syria, faces Chinese Taipei

WUHAN, China—Couldn’t get its offense going, Smart Gilas Pilipinas found redemption on the other side of the floor.

Smart Gilas Pilipinas held Syria without a field goal for over six minutes with a smothering full-court pressure and to prevail, 75-52, Wednesday night in the Fiba Asia Championship.

The Nationals unloaded 16 points during the Syrian meltdown in the fourth quarter as they notched a third straight victory in the second round and a 4-1 record at the end of the group stages.

Ranidel De Ocampo’s follow-up dunk off a wayward Jimmy Alapag triple ignited the scoring outburst at the beginning of the fourth while Marcio Lassiter and Chris Tiu responded with jumpers and penetrations, opening a wide 65-45 gap.

When center Eder Georges finally had that much-awaited bucket with 3:36 to play, the Syrians were already staring at the door with their fourth setback in five games sending them to the consolation round.

“Today’s an ugly win for us. We didn’t come out the way we expected. Good thing we picked up in the second half,” said Lassiter.

China’s scintillating 84-58 rout of Japan late Wednesday night guaranteed Smart Gilas the No.2 seeding in Group F and a quarterfinal clash against Chinese Taipei, No.3 in Group E.

The Chinese, fired up by a rowdy sellout crowd, swept the group stages and booked a fight-off with Lebanon in the quarters while the Japanese will grind it out with the Koreans in other knockout pairing.

The Nationals recovered from a forgettable first half as they began to hit their shots from the outside.

Three-pointers by De Ocampo and JV Casio and Marcus Douthit’s curl at the low blocks put Smart Gilas ahead, 42-41, after falling behind by as many as 11.

Douthit was assessed a five-second violation on the freethrow line and eventually got a technical for complaining, a call which peeved coach Rajko Toroman and the Smart Gilas bench.

Hasem Al Saman hit the technical freebies on the other end and the Syrians got their last taste of the lead as Smart Gilas finished them off with a 33-7 tear spanning the third and fourth.

“They (Syrians) have the size and we missed a lot of easy layups at the start. We struggled offensively and they had several lucky shots,” said Toroman.
“The defense was good in the second half and things opened up for us,” added Toroman.

In a game that determined the top seeding in Group E, two-time champion Iran (5-0) walloped South Korea (4-1), 79-62, to remain unbeaten entering the quarterfinals where the Iranians face Group F No. 4 Jordan.

The Jordanians (2-3) wrapped up the second round with a 94-80 triumph over United Arab Emirates (0-5) while Chinese Taipei (3-2) and Lebanon (2-3) will go to the knockout stage with confidence-building victories over Malaysia (1-4), 109-62, and Uzbekistan (0-5), 101-53, in Group E.

Meanwhile, Fiba Asia dumped Jordan’s protest against Smart Gilas. The Jordanians put the match won by the Filipinos, 72-64, under protest after organizers allowed Marcio Lassiter and Chris Lutz to play despite initially scratching them from the starter’s list.

Lassiter and Lutz were rendered ineligible by Fiba Asia officials and didn’t see action in the opening round before Fiba intervened and reinstated both players against Jordan.

The Asian championship, which stakes a continental berth to the London Olympics next year, takes a break Thursday before going full gear in the knockout stage come Friday.

Nothing seemed to go right for Smart Gilas in the second period after the Syrians overhauled a six point deficit and scored 21 points for a 32-23 halftime lead.

Japeth Aguilar’s alley-oop dunk off Mac Baracael’s feed broke a four-minute drought but guards Wael Jlilati and Vatche Nalbandian’s shooting hurt the Nationals’ cause.

Nalbandian canned two three-pointers and Jlilati had six points from the perimeter as the Syrians built a double-digit spread on Smart Gilas’ miscues.

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