Gilas Pilipinas opens Dubai Invitational with tight winBy Celest R. Flores
MANILA, Philippines — Smart Gilas Pilipinas drew key baskets from its young guns to trip club Mouttahed Tripoli, 79-77, at the start of the 24th Dubai Invitational basketball tournament Saturday morning (Manila time).
Grasping a precarious two-point lead, the Nationals managed to hold off the pesky Lebanese squad down the stretch, coming up with crucial stops, for their first victory in Dubai.
Former San Beda standout Garvo Lanete scored the final four points of Smart Gilas Pilipinas to end up with 15 points while naturalized center Marcus Douthit led with 20.
Lanete stretched the lead to 79-73, on a baseline drive. But that was the last the Nationals would score as Mouttahed pulled within two.
Douthit had a huge block down the wire, while Letran’s Kevin Alas came up with a crucial interception which gave Smart Gilas another crucial possession.
Ronjay Buenafe also chipped in 10 points while Alas, who missed two clutch free throws, added nine.
The statistics were from national team head coach Chot Reyes’ tweet (@coachot).
Smart Gilas dug itself a 15-point hole in the first half before shrugging off its slow start to overcome a tough squad, bolstered by two imports and a national team mainstay.
After Mouttahed, Smart Gilas faces Dubai’s Al Ahli, who has former New York Knick Cheikh Samb in its roster, next.