PH downs US, wins Jones Cup
Tenacious Tenorio fuels Filipinos’ brave fightback to nip AmericansBy Musong R. Castillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
TAIPEI—LA Tenorio, the 5-foot-8 Smart Gilas-Pilipinas starting point guard, certainly cannot compare with the greatest basketball player who has ever lived.
But as quarterback of the Philippine five against a most formidable foe, Tenorio played like Michael Jordan in towing the Filipinos to a remarkable conquest of the United States to win the 34th edition of the Jones Cup Sunday.
“The heart never gets tired,” Tenorio echoed a famous Jordan quote after shooting 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Filipinos to a heart-stopping 76-75 conquest of the Americans at the packed Taipei Physical Education College gym here.
The win gave the Filipinos a tournament-best 7-1 card and the country’s first title in one of Asia’s most popular events since 1998, when the Centennial team handled by Tim Cone triumphed.
“To tell you honestly, we are already very tired,” Tenorio said after spearheading the fight for the Philippines for the second straight game. “But I reminded myself of what Michael Jordan said.
“Luckily, my shots in the fourth quarter fell in,” said Tenorio, who on Saturday against Taiwan-A also scored all of his 11 points in the fourth quarter of a 76-72 victory.
The Filipinos trailed by 14 in the second period and by 13 near the end of the third, before letting it all hang out in the payoff frame that disconcerted even the finest basketball-playing country in the world.
And that was exactly the motivation used by coach Chot Reyes to fire up his weary charges, who were playing together only a month.
“Before the game, I told them (players): ‘Imagine the Philippines playing the USA for a gold in a basketball game,” Reyes told international media. “To play them for a gold medal, I don’t think that will happen again in our lives.
“I asked them to take advantage of the opportunity, and they played their hearts out.”
The Philippines actually won its fourth Jones Cup, counting the 1985 edition and the 1981 event with a team led by Ricardo Brown and also coached by the great Ron Jacobs.
“I am kind of at a loss for words,” American coach Travis McAvene said. “My guys played their hearts out. The only thing we didn’t do was get one more stop in the last 30 seconds.
“Give the Philippines credit. They came back and made shots,“ McAvene added. “That’s what basketball is all about.”
It was clear at the start that the Americans were the favorites. Even the capacity crowd, made up mostly of Taiwanese fans waiting for their national team for the next game, were rooting against their Asian neighbor Filipinos.
But the Filipinos persevered, munching away at a 44-57 third-quarter deficit by using the outside shot as a lethal weapon to finally get in the groove and open up the inside somewhat.
A triple by Jeff Chan and a layup by Tenorio to end the third put the Philippines within range, 51-59, before Tenorio hit seven points in a 10-0 run opening the fourth that had the Filipinos surging ahead, 61-59.
By that time, the Filipinos’ confidence was way up.
But the night belonged to Tenorio, who earlier struggled against bigger guards in the tournament.
The Americans were in the lead for the last time at 75-74 after a Jermaine Dearman short stab with 36.1 seconds to go, but Tenorio gave the lead back to the Philippines to stay with a jumper.
Michal Kearse, a burly shooting guard, then drove into the heart of the Philippine defense only to miss a short jumper off the glass.
Then Tenorio, who is even smaller than the spectacular James Justice of the US, soared above giants to snare the defensive rebound with eight seconds left that eventually sent Chan to the line in the final 1.9.
Chan missed the first and intentionally missed the second.
SMART GILAS-PH 76—Tenorio 20, Chan 18, Douthit 17, Fonacier 9, Norwood 5, David 5, De Ocampo 2, Thoss 0, Mercado 0.
UNITED STATES 75—Arnold 17, Justice 17, Marshall 14, Barnes 13, Dearman 10, Vandermeer 2, Reese 0, Williams 0.
Quarters: 12-13, 23-34, 51-59, 76-75