WUHAN, China—Jordan shut down Smart Gilas Pilipinas’ direct path to London, crushing the Olympic dreams of a basketball-crazed nation.
The Jordanians came in tactically prepared and denied the Philippine five a historical trip to the gold-medal finale of the 26th Fiba Asia Championship with a 75-61 victory Saturday at the Wuhan Gymnasium here.
Spreading out a defensive blanket for 40 minutes, Jordan closed out on Smart Gilas’ shooters and ganged up on Marcus Douthit in the paint without letup to earn a spot in the finals, where the top prize is an automatic booking to the London Olympics next year.
Marcio Lassiter missed all of his 10 shots and combined for 0 of 21 from the field with Jimmy Alapag and Chris Tiu to typify the Nationals’ atrocious shooting percentage of 31 percent (22 of 70), a far cry from the 50-percent field-goal rating they had coming into the match.
The Jordanians challenged every shot, ready to dash crosscourt just to extend a hand on every long-range sniper on the floor and forced Smart Gilas to a horrific three of 23 from three-point range.
Douthit finished with 21 points and plucked down 15 rebounds but visibly struggled to earn his keep with the lanes clogged with wide-bodied Jordanian defenders.
“We never found our rhythm the entire game. Worse, they had 17 offensive rebounds and that changed [the game] a lot,” said Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman.
“Everything that happened was the opposite of our expectations,” added Toroman.
Fresh from an emphatic win over Chinese Taipei in the quarterfinals, the Filipinos were two steps away from realizing their Olympic dream.
All is not lost, however, since Smart Gilas could still end up with a bronze if the Nationals beat Korea Sunday at 3:30pm. Korea yielded to China in the other semis match, 43-56.
Ending up third will still quench the Nationals’ thirst for a medal in the Asian championship. The last time the country won a medal was in 1986 when the Northern Consolidated Cement-backed team won it all.
The winner between Jordan and China or Korea in the finals goes straight to London while the losing finalist and third placer advance to an additional Fiba Olympic qualifier where three wildcard berths are at stake.
“They are more experienced and we we’re not mentally ready for this game,” said Toroman.
Jordan, which played in the 2010 Fiba World Championship in Turkey and ranks third in Asia, exploited Smart Gilas’ 17 turnovers by converting them into 18 points and deliberately slowed it down whenever the Nationals launched a comeback.
“There are similarities between Iran and the Philippines. Douthit is much like (Hamed) Haddadi who is a force in offense plus they have tenacious guards who could create problems,” said Jordan coach Tab Baldwin, who advanced to the semifinals after stunning Iran in the quarters.
“Douthit was able to put the points on the board but we limited the guards similar to [what we did aganst] Iran. We really dug in and I want to credit our defense for that,” added Baldwin.
Smart Gilas was still on course for an Olympic slot five minutes into the fourth before point guard Sam Daghles and Zaid Abbas drilled consecutive three-pointers, breaking it open, 60-48, after the Filipinos pulled within three.
The 6-foot-5 Daghles simply let time fritter away as Smart Gilas couldn’t get their shots into the rim for the final four minutes.
It was a sorry defeat for the Nationals, especially since they started the game strongly.
Douthit found the diminutive Casio under a thicket of trees in the paint for a basket that tied the count and fueled a 16-6 run capped by a De Ocampo hook and Douhit’s freethrows for an 18-12 lead at the end of the first period.
De Ocampo put in successive penetrations to keep everything under control before the Filipinos went through a long scoring lull, allowing the Jordanians to overtake them, 24-22, on free throws by Rasheim Wright and Islam Abbas’ three-point play.
After going 0 of 6 for four minutes, Casio broke the impasse with his split charities following an unsportsmanlike foul on the 6-foot-10 Zaid Alkhas.
Douthit escaped under the rim and Casio drained his second three of the day as the Filipinos regained control at halftime, 28-27.
But the Filipinos simply struggled in the second half, allowing Jordan to advance to the championship match.
JORDAN 75—Wright 24, Daghles 16, Z. Abbas 14, Abuqoura 9, Zaghab 5, I. Abbas 5, Al-Sous 2, Alkhas 0, Hussein 0, Soobzokov 0, Abu Ruqayah 0.
PHILIPPINES 61—Douthit 21, Casio 15, De Ocampo 8, Williams 6, Lutz 4, Barroca 4, Lassiter 2, Alapag 1, Tiu 0, Taulava 0.
Quarters: 18-12, 28-27, 41-49, 75-61