WUHAN, China—Marcio Lassiter provided the spark in his belated appearance at the Fiba Asia championship as Smart Gilas Pilipinas squeezed past Jordan, 72-64, Monday night at the Wuhan Gymnasium.
Lassiter, cleared by Fiba to rejoin the Nationals along with fellow Fil-Am Chris Lutz before the game, fired four three-pointers and did a splendid job defending the wings against a strong-starting Jordan that built an early 18-point lead.
Marcus Douthit also came away with a prolific performance of 19 points and 15 rebounds as the Nationals clinched their first win in the second round for an overall 3-1 record.
It was not only on the court where the Filipinos endured uneasy moments.
Fifteen minutes before tipoff, tournament officials refused to give the go-signal for Lassiter and Lutz to play despite getting a clearance on their citizenship eligibility from the International Basketball Federation (Fiba) in Switzerland.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny V. Pangilinan then appealed the case to Fiba Asia deputy secretary general Hagop Khajarian, who made the tycoon wait in his office until the opening minutes of the first period.
Philippine Olympic Committee chair Monico Puentevella said Fiba secretary general Patrick Baumann called up Khajarian from Geneva before the Lebanese finally allowed Lutz and Lassiter to play.
Down by 18 early in the second quarter, the Filipinos regrouped and slowly worked their way up behind Lassiter, Douthit, Chris Tiu, JV Casio and Asi Taulava.
Ranidel De Ocampo’s layup off a nifty feed by Tiu finally gave Smart Gilas the lead, 37-35, halfway through the third period.
“I have won the Asian championship with Iran but this is probably the biggest win of my life,” said Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman.
“A win in this kind of circumstance is just amazing.”
In other games, naturalized forward Moon Tae-jong fired 21 points in the first half to spearhead South Korea’s 106-57 rout of Uzbekistan, defending champion Iran also remained unbeaten following a 121-36 manhandling of Malaysia, and Chinese Taipei squeezed a 60-58 win over Lebanon.
Toroman earlier filed an official protest when technical officials at first prevented Lutz and Lassiter from playing.
Seven minutes into the game, Toroman was finally given the go-signal and fielded in Lutz with Smart Gilas already down by 13.
Then it was Jordan coach Thomas Baldwin’s turn to protest.
“I’m extremely disappointed with the organizers and with my team, it’s generally how I feel,” said Baldwin, who put the game under protest. “Absolute travesty was done in the sport of basketball today.
PHILIPPINES 72—Douthit 19, Lassiter 14, Alapag 11, Tiu 9, Williams 6, Lutz 4, de Ocampo 4, Casio 3, Taulava 2, Barroca 0, Aguilar 0, Baracael 0.
JORDAN 64—Daghles 18, Wright 16, Abbas Z. 10, Abuqoura 7, Abbas I. 6, Al-Sous 5, Jamal 2, Soobzokov 0.
Quarters: 11-20; 26-31; 47-47; 72-64