Gilas blows late lead, loses to China by 3

The one thing that Filipinos need in international competition deserted them when they needed it the most: accurate outside shooting.

Throwing bricks from the three-point area, the Smart-Gilas Pilipinas 2.0 dropped a stinging 68-71 heartbreaker to the youthful China squad as the 2012 FIBA Asia Cup got going Friday at the Ota Gymnasium in Ota, Japan.

Fresh from a remarkable title run in the R. Williams Jones Cup, the Filipinos seemed on the verge of essaying a gigantic victory, only to lost their touch from the beyond the arc in the stretch–bungling 12 of their 13 attempts in the fourth and 29 of their 35 tries overall, resulting in a shabby start in the nine-day event formerly known as the Stankovic Cup.

Guo Ailun paced all scorers with 18 points, including two triples, while Zhao Tailong added 11, five coming in the crunch, for China, the youngest team in the 10-team tournament with an average age of 20.

Talk ‘N Text forward Ranidel de Ocampo collected 11 points while naturalized import Marcus Douthit and Larry Fonacier scattered 10 apiece but those proved short as the PH side got waylaid down the lane by the taller Chinese with a 31-58 disadvantage in rebounding.

Typifying the Filipinos’ horrible shooting outing was ace playmaker LA Tenorio, the reigning Jones Cup MVP who went 2-of-12 from the field, including four misses from the trifectaville while sinking only one.

Banking on a 23-point explosion in the third and the foul-plagued stint of up-and-coming Chinese star Wang Zhelin, the Filipinos stormed back and even took a big 64-56 cushion off a Tenorio split with 6:32 left.

Just when the PH side appeared headed for a coasting win, the Chineses uncorked a telling 11-0 run, anchored on Guo, and regained control anew 67-64 with 2:04 remaining.

A basket by Gary David pulled Filipinos within one but Wu Ke answered back, restoring China’s lead 69-66. Douthit and Zhao traded baskets for a 71-68 count, setting the stage for a thrilling finish in the last 49 seconds.

Jeff Chan and Gary David–usually the reliable knock-down shooters–muffed their three-point attempts then Tenorio incurred a foul on Cao Yan, who kept the PH hopes alive after missing two free throws with 31 ticks on the clock.

But the Filipinos failed to pounce on the golden chance.

Needing a trey to force extra five-minute period, Tenorio and Chan misfired their respective attempts, enabling the Chinese to escape.

The Filipinos now need to recover their bearings quickly as they take on dangerous Lebanon on Saturday. The defending champions, the Lebanese ran roughshod over hapless Macau 120-51 in their Group A action earlier.

Gilas boxscores:

De Ocampo 11, Douthit 10, Fonacier 10, Norwood 9, Dillinger 8, Tenorio 8, David 7, Chan 5, Reyes 0, Villanueva 0.


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