Fiba Asia U16: PH Youth bows to Korea, ends world berth bid
NHA TRANG, Vietnam—A familiar basketball nemesis dealt the Philippines another heartbreak.
The Energen Pilipinas Under-16 team’s bid for a historic world berth came to an end as South Korea handed the young Nationals its first loss, 67-58, in the Fiba Asia U16 semifinals Thursday night at the Khanh Hoa Sports Center here.
In a run fueled by Henry Asilum, the Philippines came within a basket twice, the last at 58-60, after trailing by as many as 13 points, 44-57 in the second half.
But Korea held the Philippines scoreless in the final six minutes as the young Nationals also started missing even at close range.
Asilum and Jay Alejandro paced the Philippines with 12 points each.
The loss relegated the Philippines to a bronze-medal battle against Japan on Friday afternoon.
Hoon Heo torched the Philippines with a game-high 22 points, while Nakhyeon Kim and Gookchan Kim had 16 points apiece.
Heo, son of the legendary Hur Jae, drilled seven points in a 12-2 tear that gave Korea its first double-digit advantage, 37-27, after a deadlock at 25 late in the first half.
The hot-shooting Koreans continued to sizzle in the third period, extending the lead to as many as 13 points, 57-44.
Defending champion China, the only unbeaten team in seven games, and South Korea will dispute the crown Friday in a rematch of the 2009 edition’s championship.
Both finalists will represent Asia in the 2012 Fiba U17 World Championship from July 17 to 26 in Kaunas, Lithuania.
Boasting a pair of seven-footers, China downed Japan, 82-43, in the other semifinal match last night.
A win by the young Nationals could have been historic as no other Philippine basketball team in any division has reached the World Championship for over 30 years.
Manila’s hosting of the 1978 Fiba Worlds was the last time a Philippine team reached this lofty stage, where American coach Ron Jacobs steered the country to an eighth-place finish.
An all-amateur National squad (National Consolidated Cement) also qualified in the Worlds after topping the 1985 Asian Championship in Kuala Lumpur, but the team disbanded due to the 1986 People Power.
The boys’ loss added to the many heartbreaks that South Korea dealt the Philippines in past international campaigns.
Just last month, Korea pulled off an incredible come-from-behind win over Smart Gilas Pilipinas, 70-68, in the battle for the bronze in the Fiba Asia Men’s Championship in Wuhan, China.
The Philippines also had a meltdown in the 2002 Asian Games where Olsen Racela—now the youth team’s coach–bungled two crucial free throws before Lee Sang-min buried a triple at the buzzer that spoiled the country’s bid to advance to the gold-medal match against China.
The seeming jinx continued in the 2009 Fiba Asia in Tianjin, China where the Nationals blew the lead and lost seventh place to the Koreans.
Last year, Smart Gilas also absorbed a Korean setback in the quarterfinals of the Guangzhou Asian Games.
“I reminded the players that I’ve played Korea in the past, I’ve seen them play our recent teams and we know we cant relax,” Racela said the night before his team’s crucial match.
“This Korean team is no different from the others. Their three-point shot is a big factor, that’s what we have to contain.”
Before the Korean loss, the young Nationals were on a a six-game roll, the last an 82-69 stunner over West Asian champion Iraq in the quarterfinals.
An upset over Japan (83-72) also capped the team’s 5-0 sweep of the first two rounds.
The Philippines, the reigning champion in the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba), routed Indonesia (93-30) and Vietnam (111-25) in the preliminaries, before cruising past Qatar (107-28) and Saudi Arabia (100-42) in the second round.
SOUTH KOREA 67–Heo 22, Kim N. 16, Kim G. 16, Kim M. 7, Lee 2, Yun 2, Park 2, Koh 0, Shin 0,
PHILIPPINES 58—Asilum 12, Alejandro 12, Javelosa 7, Diputado 6, Ramos 6, Rivero 6, Cani 5, Lao 4, Heading 0.
Quarters: 19-21, 37-29, 58-50, 67-58
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