Source : Jaemark Tordecilla, InterAKTV
The sharpshooting opponents. The missed free throws. The feeling of coming so close and falling short.
On Sunday, the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team lost to South Korea, 70-68, in the bronze medal match of the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship, and the outcome — and its resulting heartbreak — felt strangely familiar to Filipino fans.
The Philippines was in control for most of the match, before naturalized forward Tae-jung Moon, who missed his first five three-point attempts, hit a three-pointer with 47 seconds left to give South Korea a 67-65 lead. The Koreans then outsteadied the Filipinos from the free throw line to keep the SMART-Gilas out of the podium for the final result.
Cho Sung-min was the latest in the long line of Korean sharpshooters to break the hearts of the Filipino faithful, scoring 20 points, including four three-pointers, and leading a fourth quarter rally that saw his team come back from an 11-point deficit. Cho also nailed the key free throws to preserve the victory for South Korea, going 3-of-4 from the line in the last minute.
Marcus Douthit and Jimmy Alapag played heroically for Team Pilipinas, with the naturalized center scoring 27 points and grabbing 22 rebounds, and the reigning PBA Most Valuable Player scoring 17 points, including five three-pointers, most of which kept South Korea at bay for the first three quarters.
Douthit scored five straight points to give the Philippines a comfortable 59-50 advantage with 4:53 left in the game. But athletic big man Oh Se-keun scored seven points off post-ups and Cho contributed a four-point play and a three-pointer in a 14-6 run to set up Moon’s three-pointer.
SMART-Gilas squandered several chances to grab back the lead with shaky free throw shooting. Douthit was fouled with 38 seconds left, but only managed a split from the line to cut the Korean lead down to 67-66. SMART-Gilas was able to win possession off Douthit’s miss, but Kelly Williams missed both of his free throw attempts after being fouled with 26.5 seconds left.
Cho hit two free throws for South Korea to push its lead to 69-66. SMART-Gilas drew up a play for Douthit that resulted in yet another Korean foul, but Team Pilipinas’ tower of power, who played without relief in the second half, could only make one of two shots to cut the deficit to 69-67.
Marcio Lassiter grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled, but like Douthit, the Filipino-American swingman could only make one of two shots to cut the South Korea lead to 69-68.
In the ensuing possession, Cho was once again fouled, but this time, the Korean main man also missed a free throw. With time running out, Jayvee Casio dribbled to the three-point line for a desperation attempt at the buzzer that didn’t draw iron, sealing the fate of SMART-Gilas.
But while the Philippines hasn’t won against its traditional Asian rivals in recent years, it has come very close. In the 2009 FIBA Asia Championship, South Korea defeated the Philippines, 82-80, on a Yang Dong-geun drive in the dying seconds in the game for seventh place.
More famously, a three-pointer by Lee Sang-min at the buzzer gave South Korea a 69-68 victory in the semifinals of the 2002 Asian Games — a loss that haunts Filipino basketball aficionados to this day.
Apart from the bronze medal, a third-place finish would have given SMART-Gilas a slot in the qualifying tournament for the 2012 London Olympics next year. The loss extinguished all hope for the Philippines to qualify for next year’s Games, which was the main reason the program was instituted in 2009.
Korea, 70 – Cho, 20; Kim, 14; Oh, 9; Moon. 8; Kang, 8; J.Kim, 7; Lee, 2; Y. Kim, 1; Yang, 1; Park, 0.
Philippines, 68 – Douthit, 27; Alapag, 17; Williams, 9; Lutz, 5; De Ocampo, 3; Tiu, 2; Casio, 2; Baracael, 2; Lassiter, 1; Taulava, 0.
OTHER RESULTS :
Chinese Taipei 72 Japan 81 [ 7th and 8th placing ]
Iran 87 Lebanon 65 [5th and 6th placing ]
China 70 Jordan 69 [gold medal game]