INCHEON, South Korea—And so the Gilas Pilipinas program went crumbling down on a cool on Saturday afternoon in bustling Incheon.
So who’s to blame?
“We fell short and the entire responsibility falls on my shoulders,” Gilas Head Coach Chot Reyes told the news conference after Gilas absorbed a third-straight defeat this time at the hands of host South Korea, 95-97, in the 17thAsian Games. “And I want to apologize to our people.” The night before, the Philippines took a humiliating 68-77 loss to Qatar and Reyes directly pointed to Marcus Douthit as the culprit behind the setback. That earned Reyes flak from all over, especially from the social media.
Reyes benched Douthit on Thursday for “disciplinary measure” on what he perceived as not having played 100 percent against the Qataris. The naturalized American was in uniform, but was never sent to the court. With those three straight defeats—including 63-68 against Iran—the Filipinos now face a must-win game against Kazakhstan in their 3:15 p.m. (2:15 p.m. in Manila) and hope that South Korea prevails over Qatar. The PHL 5 must win by at least 11 points against the Kazakhs, who beat Qatar, 65-57, to enter the semifinals but Gilas needs some help from the South Koreans.
“I am very proud of my boys. It was a very difficult challenge for us to beat Korea in their very own court but I thought we fought, we fought to the very end,” Reyes said. The victory wasn’t offered to the Koreans on a silver platter at the Samsan World Gymnasium. They had to toil especially in the third quarter when the Filipinos rushed to a 16-point lead.
The nationals unleashed their full might with LA Tenorio, Jeff Chan and Ranidel de Ocampo burying four three-pointers for a 65-49 margin. But they suddenly lost their poise.
Oh Sekeun ignited the South Koreans’ mighty comeback and wily point guard Kim Taesul scattered nine points explosion, including a completed fastbreak off a steal against Gilas forward Gabe Norwood, to cut a 68-52 deficit to 67-70. A triple by veteran Cho Sungmin then made it 71-72 and the Filipinos finally found themselves disorganized.
The Filipinos momentarily got themselves into form for a 78-71 breather to open the fourth period but there was no stopping the South Koreans who finally grabbed the lead at 84-82 on a triple from their naturalized player Moon Taejong. After Jimmy Alapag tied the count for the last time at 88-all, Tenorio split his charities for an 89-88 lead, Gilas’s last in the game as Yang Heejong strung five straight points to highlight South Korea’s crunch-time breakaway for an insurmountable 95-89 advantage.
The Philippines, which was hoping to end a 52-year gold-medal drought in the Asian Games, also lost to the South Koreans in the semifinal rounds of both the 1986 Seoul and 2002 Busan Asian Games. Jimmy Alapag was Gilas’s main man in offense with 25 points with four assists and two steals. Tenorio went four-of-five from the three-point zone to finish with 20 points, while Chan contributed 16 markers.
Six-foot-10 June Mar Fajardo manned the shade for 28 minutes and managed 10 rebounds and 10 points.
Moon Taejong was at his best shooting form all game long and led all scorers with 38 points. Cho Sungmin had 17 points, Yang Donggeun, 16, and Yang Heejong, 10, for the South Koreans, who won the last of their three Asian men’s basketball titles in 2002 in Busan.