SMART-Gilas rallies past Japan to remain perfect in Jones Cup

InterAKTV file photo/Niko Bolante

The SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team banked on a late rally to defeat Japan, 88-84, and remain unbeaten in the 34th William Jones Cup in Taiwan.

Japan led the Philippines by 13 points at the start of the fourth period, but the Filipinos opened the quarter with an 8-2 run then rode a huge 16-4 run capped by a three-pointer from Gabe Norwood to take the lead, before holding off the Japanese with steady shooting from the free throw line.

Naturalized center Marcus Douthit paced the Filipinos with 26 points while LA Tenorio added 13 points, including three triples. Norwood added 11 points.

The Philippines moved up to 4-0, drawing themselves into a tie with Iran, which earlier defeated the US team in double overtime.

SMART-Gilas played well early, finishing the first quarter with a 26-23 lead. But Japan made a huge run in the second period, rattling off nine unanswered points, including two triples in the middle of the quarter. Sol Mercado broke the drought with a basket, but Japan scored five straight points to open up their first double-digit lead at 40-30. They took an 11-point lead, 47-36, to the halftime break.

The Philippines closed in to as close as three, 52-55, in the third after Douthit scored all of a 7-2 run for the Filipinos. But Japan closed the third with another big run, 11-3, to lead by 13 points heading into the fourth period.

In the fourth, Douthit, Norwood and LA Tenorio combined for an 8-2 run that got the Philippines within seven, 73-66. With the team down by nine, Gary David hit a three-pointer to spark another rally. LA Tenorio sank two free throws and Jeff Chan added another triple as the SMART-Gilas cut their deficit down to just one, 79-78.

After a Japan basket, Douthit hit a free throw and Norwood followed it up with a big three from the corner that completed the Filipinos’ comeback, 82-81.

Douthit then scored an easy bucket off a strong drive from Jeff Chan to make it 84-81 with just 1:36 remaining. Japan’s big man Kosuke Takeuchi was then forced into a double-dribble violation that sent the ball back the Philippines’ way. Douthit then iced a pair of free throws on the other end to give the team an 86-81 advantage.

But Japan had one more challenge in them as Takatoshi Furukawa, who played sparingly today after hitting 7-for-7 from three-point range in their previous game, hit a triple to cut the lead down to two, 86-84 with 20.6 to play.

But Chan hit his two free throws on the next possession, and the Filipinos made one last defensive stand to take the victory.

The Philippines will play Lebanon next before wrapping up their campaign with three tough assignments in Iran, hosts Chinese Taipei A and USA.

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