It took 28 years, but the Philippines is once again in the finals of the FIBA-Asia Basketball Championship.
Gilas Pilipinas, the national team, beat South Korea, 86-79, on Saturday to arrange a title duel with Iran at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
An injured Marc Douthit, the team’s naturalized 6’11 center, limped off the court with still five minutes left in the second period, but Jimmy Alapag, Marc Pingris, Jeff Chan and Jason Castro kept up the firepower and managed to hold back the determined Koreans until the halftime buzzer.
The Filipinos even outscored the Koreans from the three-point zone, hitting eight of 21 attempts for a 38 percent clip. The Koreans shot eight of 22 treys for 36 percent.
Gilas Pilipinas also hauled down more rebounds than their much taller opponents – 38 against 27.
The Philippine squad led by Sonny Jaworski and Ramon Fernandez defeated a Korean team bannered by scoring legend Shin Dong Pa in the finals of 1973 FIBA Asia which was also held in Manila.
Saturday’s game was close throughout, with the lead switching 12 times and the score tied thrice.
The Filipinos’ biggest lead was 10 and the Koreans’, 11.
The victory assured the Philippines of a berth in the FIBA World Championship next year in Madrid, Spain. Iran clinched the first slot after defeating Chinese Taipei in the other semifinal match. South Korea will take on Chinese-Taipei for third place and the last slot.
” I told my players that now is our chance to write our own story,” said Gilas Pilipinas Coach Chot Reyes. “We did not stop fighting, we carried it on.”
Douthit is a doubtful starter in the game against Iran tonight. He played for 13 minutes and 14 seconds, collecting only two points and three rebounds and one assist.
Castro led the Filipinos with 17 points, Pingris added 16, Alapag 14 and Ranidel de
Kim Mingoo scored a game-high 27 points for Korea, including five-of-11 from the
three-point area. Yang Donggeun and Kim Joo-Sung each put in 11 points.