SMART-Gilas succumbs to Qatar to finish 4th in FIBA-Asia tilt

Talk about adding insult to injury.

After a heartbreaking semfinal loss to Iran Saturday night, SMART-Gilas Pilipinas failed to clinch the bronze medal in front of its hometown crowd, succumbing a 64-71 loss to Al-Rayyan of Qatar in the final day of the 22nd FIBA Asia Champions Cup at the PhilSports Arena on Sunday.

Naturalized center Marcus Douthit exploded 28 points and 17 rebounds to lead the nationals, but it was not enough to loosen Qatar’s tight defense from the perimeter which resulted in measly 13 percent shooting from beyond the arc for SMART-Gilas.

Guard JVee Casio, who fouled out late in the game, added 10 points for the Philippine team.

Qatar jumped the gun early in the game with a 10-2 spurt in the first quarter. But SMART-Gilas kept on fighting back, with Douthit hitting jumpers to score eight points to keep the nationals within striking distance at the end of the opening period, which ended with Qatar leading 17-15.

But Qatar’s defense and rebounding prevented SMART-Gilas from coming back in the game. Apart from shackling the Philippines’ three-point shooters, who were instrumental for the team’s sweep of the preliminary round of the tournament, Al-Rayyan dominated the rebounding battle, 56-38.

American import Chauncey Lesley scattered 19 points to propel Qatar to their fourth bronze medal finish in the annual club tournament.

After the game, Al-Rayyan’s Yasseen Musa congratulated Gilas for their solid showing throughout the competition.

“They really did well in this tournament,” Musa said. “They are the future of Asian basketball.”

Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman, meanwhile, said their loss to Iran affected the way they played against Qatar.

“We were empty after yesterday’s game,” Toroman said. “I’m very disappointed now.”

Despite the loss, Smart Gilas still duplicated the country’s best finish in the tournament since 2007, when the PBA-backed SMC-Team Pilipinas team finished fourth.

The Philippines clinched its last FIBA-Asia Champions Cup title in 1996, when imports Bobby Parks and Tonny Harris propelled the Hapee Toothpaste squad to the country’s fourth championship in the tournament.

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