TAIPEI—More than staying on top of the standings, more than winning a third straight game, and more than improving its all-time record against South Korea, Smart Gilas-Pilipinas pounded out this one for a grieving nation.
Gary David hit two crucial jumpers inside the final 1:25 Tuesday afternoon, keying an 82-79 nipping of the Koreans that kept the Filipinos tied for the lead in the 34th Jones Cup.
Smart Gilas wanted to give their countrymen a moment of joy in this time of mourning.
Team Philippines blew a 14-point first-half lead, rallied from 12 points down in the third period, before holding the Koreans to a paltry eight points in the fourth quarter. The loss was the second straight for the Koreans in four games.
For a team that has been together for just three weeks, the Filipinos have been impressive as far as cohesion is concerned, moving the ball pretty well and continually finding the open man in troubled times.
Gabe Norwood and Sol Mercado provided the backcourt fuel for the Philippines when Korea tried to break the game open, getting the Filipinos back in the flow in the third period before David stepped up—like he always does—in winning time.
David first gave the Philippines a 79-77 lead with a running jumper under heavy pressure with 1:25 left. And after Korea had equalized in its next offensive courtesy of a layup from Lee Jung-hyun, David again took over in a play that wasn’t penciled for him.
“It was not a play designed for me,” David told Filipino scribes. “But I found an opening and took it. My job in this team is to score and that’s what I did.”
After learning hours before the game at the Taipei Physical Education College gym here that the body of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo had been found, the Nationals vowed to dedicate this one to the late public servant.
“There’s a lot of sadness and mourning going on in the Philippines right now,” coach Chot Reyes explained to international media in a somber tone during the winning coach’s interview, which was translated by interpreters.
“The body of one of our Cabinet members was found in the sea this morning,” he continued. “We talked about it (tragedy) as a team and all we could do was give them (Filipinos back home) something to be proud of, something to be happy for the moment.”
David flipped a 20-foot jumper right in front of the Philippine bench and connected with 45.3 seconds left before the Filipinos’ defense forced Choi Hyun-min to take an off-balanced jumper that was way off the mark.
Norwood was then sent to the line by Lee, with the Rain or Shine guard splitting his charities with 24.1 seconds left. With a three-point deficit, the Koreans were left with no choice but to launch a three-pointer that national team player Kim Tae-sul took and missed.
The Philippines thus remained tied with powerhouse United States, which scored a 116-71 win over Taipei-B in an earlier match. Iran, the defending champion, is also at 3-0.
Norwood finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, and Mercado had nine points and proved to be an able match for Kim, a national team mainstay. Jeff Chan hit four triples and led the Filipinos with 14 points.
SMART GILAS-PILIPINAS 82—Chan 14, David 13, Douthit 11, Norwood 10, Mercado 9, Fonacier 7, Tenorio 5, De Ocampo 4, Thoss 4, Lanete 3, Ganuelas 2, Villanueva 0.
KOREA 79—Pattillo 19, Jung 14, Stutz 11, Choi 10, Kim 9, Yang 8, Lee 6, Kim 2, Cha 0, Kwang 0.
Quarters: 24-17, 42-40, 65-71, 82-79