In their last game at the 2011 Jones Cup in Taipei, the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team played the role of visitors from hell, clobbering host Chinese Taipei, 82-72, to bag third place in the tournament Sunday night.
Marcus Douthit, who had a miserable outing against Iran while matched up against NBA center Hamed Haddadi the day before, was brilliant all game long for the Philippine team, scoring 28 points and grabbing 11 rebounds over the overmatched Chinese Taipei frontcourt. With the naturalized center wreaking havoc down low, the lane was open for the SMART-Gilas guards to attack, as Marcio Lassiter scored 16 points, Dondon Hontiveros added 13, and Mark Barroca, who was hobbled by a twisted ankle, contributed 10.
The Filipinos led from end to end, keeping the hosts at bay despite the best efforts of Chinese Taipei — and in several instances, the referees. Officiating has been one of the biggest talking points in the tournament, with various coaches expressing their displeasure over the perceived poor refereeing in the tournament. Observers also noted a particular bias for the home team, with some saying that the Chinese Taipei victory over Jordan was helped by a lot of home cooking.
Even though Hontiveros and team captain Chris Tiu were both called for iffy flagrant fouls, SMART-Gilas never gave the refs any chance to screw them over. They started the game with a blistering 11-2 run en route to a 22-16 lead in the first quarter. The Philippine stretched the lead to 9 points at halftime and extended the lead to 13 after three quarters.
SMART-Gilas continued to step on the gas pedal to open the fourth quarter, with Douthit and Hontiveros keying a 7-0 run to open the period to push their advantage to 20 points. The Philippine team stretched the lead to as much as 22 points a couple of times, with Hontiveros and Lassiter sniping to keep the Chinese Taipei team away.
Douthit was pulled out of the game with more than six minutes left and SMART-Gilas leading comfortably. Despite not having the prized slotman in the game, the Filipinos repelled every Chinese Taipei attempt at a rally, leading to what was an extended garbage time session that allowed the hosts to cut the deficit to a more respectable margin at the buzzer.
Alaska coach Tim Cone, who led the Philippine team to its last Jones Cup championship in 1998, lauded the effort of the SMART-Gilas players.
“As a coach, one of the most difficult things to do is getting your guys to play hard for a 3rd place game in an international tourney,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “So far so good for Gilas. Hats off to Coach [Rajko] Toroman.”
The finish was the best for the Philippines in the annual tournament since 2007, when the San Miguel Corporation-Team Pilipinas coached by current Talk ‘N Text tactician Chot Reyes also finished third.
The grueling Jones Cup stint, which saw SMART-Gilas playing nine games in nine days, is part of the team’s preparation for the 2011 FIBA-Asia men’s championship in September, which serves as the qualifier to the 2012 London Olympics.
SMART-Gilas will travel next to Doha on August 24 to 29, where the team will play in a pocket tournament along with the national teams of Qatar, Lebanon, and Syria. Talk ‘N Text players Kelly Williams, Ranidel de Ocampo, and 2011 PBA Most Valuable Player Jimmy Alapag are expected to join the team for the next trip.