Belangel’s triple at buzzer gives Gilas qualifying win vs fierce rival Korea
It was the kind of victory fans had been used to watching South Korea score against the Philippines.
SJ Belangel figured it was time to turn the tables.
The diminutive Ateneo playmaker buried a three-pointer at the buzzer as Gilas Pilipinas came from as many as 17 down to pip South Korea, 81-78, in the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) Asia Cup qualifiers on Wednesday night at Angeles University Foundation in Pampanga.
“SJ was tough throughout the game,” said Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin of his ward. “That goes to show you that small bodies with big hearts still have a place in the game of basketball.”
The Philippines, reeling from a 7-0 Korean punch that backed the Filipinos to a five-point corner, jabbed its way out of the deficit by scoring eight straight points for a 78-75 lead, 10 seconds left in the game.
The tailend of that run was a three-point play chance for Ange Kouame, who had scored on a strong put-back. But what is a Korea game without the possibility of heartache?
Kouame missed the free throw that would have swelled the lead to four, the Koreans got the rebound and Lee Hyun-jung buried a triple on the other end that tied the game at 78 with less than three seconds remaining.
Belangel, however, made sure that Korea wouldn’t get an extra period.
“I don’t think there’s any question that these guys are going to compete,” Baldwin said. “There’s always going to be a question about ‘Can our talent stand up to an opponent’s talent? Can our inexperience stand up to the experience of another team?’”
Can’t question heart
“But [there is no questioning] their heart and … their desire to fight,” he said.
The Philippines needed just one win out of three games to qualify for the continental championship.
And for a majority of the first half, the team looked like it was going to hunt for that win against Southeast Asian neighbor Indonesia on Friday.
Falling to Korea’s three-point shooting and transition game, Gilas Pilipinas tumbled into a 16-33 deficit at the halfway mark of the second period.
But the Philippines fought back behind the national program’s front line of the future, Kouame and Kai Sotto.
Sotto showed flashes of his potential, scoring at the post against Korean naturalized big Ra Gun-ah and bringing the ball down before crossing Ra for a one-hander that put the Philippines within 12.
Kouame, meanwhile, drained a triple at the halftime buzzer to send the Nationals into the locker room trailing by just eight, 36-44.
“You saw the determination in Kai to make an impact,” Baldwin said. “We can see what kind of competitor he is.”
“Ange rebounded the ball well, made a big block in the fourth. The game is very quick for Ange, but he will improve with experience,” Baldwin added.
Isaac Go capped a strong start by Gilas Pilipinas in the third quarter with an offensive rebound and a put-back that gave the Filipinos their first lead of the game, 54-52, 1:49 remaining.
Dwight Ramos led the Philippines with 16 points and five rebounds while Belangel added 13. Sotto and Kouame combined for 23 points and 13 boards.
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