DUBAI?For a change, the national dribblers will go home with medals hanging around their necks.
Banking again on an all-Filipino crew, the Smart Gilas Pilipinas national five buried 18 straight free throws to hold off Al Jalaa of Syria, 107-98, in the bronze-medal game of the 21st Dubai International basketball tournament Sunday night at the Al Ahli Club here.
Mark Barroca fired 18 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter while Marnel Baracael, Marcio Lassiter and Chris Tiu provided clutch support as Smart Gilas wriggled free from a see-saw battle and scored 40 points in the final period.
Three free throws by Barroca and two by Baracael gave Gilas a 91-83 advantage with three minutes left, forcing the Syrians to go on a fouling spree in a bid to stop the clock.
All told, the Filipinos converted 33 of 40 free throws with Tiu making all 12 of his charities.
?We?re down after the loss (to Al Riyadi of Lebanon in the semifinals) but we recovered and showed mental toughness,? said RP coach Rajko Toroman.
In the championship match, Iran?s Mahram denied Al Riyadi a second straight crown with an 85-67 triumph built on the heroics of tournament MVP Samad Nikkah Bahrami.
JVee Casio, who impressed the organizers with his consistency, was named best guard while Al Riyadi?s CJ Giles, the first prospect for naturalization of Smart Gilas, was best center.
?Our performance earned the team respect from other Asian teams,? said Toroman after the Filipinos avenged their only loss in a 3-1 card at the end of the elimination round.
Smart Gilas trailed by 12 points at 35-23 before finally seizing the initiative in the fourth quarter despite Toroman?s benching of 6-foot-11 American reinforcement Jamal Sampson, who missed Smart Gilas? loss to Al Jalaa, 90-76, in the eliminations due to what he claimed was a swollen knee.
SMART GILAS 107?Baracael 26, Barroca 21, Tiu 12, Aguilar 10, Casio 10, Lassiter 9, Cawaling 9, Balesteros 4, Slaughter 4, Ababou 0.
AL JALAA 98?Maadanli 23, Correa 18, Shaw 16, Hamilton 10, Gorges 9, Al Sharif 8, Thompson 7, Meraneh 5, Papazian 2.
Quarters: 18-26, 40-48, 67-70, 107-98