Taller Jordanians deal tired SMART-Gilas first Jones Cup loss

The SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team put up a gallant fight, but ultimately ran out of steam to absorb a 76-72 loss at the hands of a heftier Jordan squad at the 2011 Jones Cup in Taipei.

Clutch hits by Sam Daghles and Enver Soobzokov carried the day for Jordan, which had a hard time putting away a Philippine team that kept fighting despite being undersized and tired.

Jordan looked ready to put the game away midway through the fourth period after taking a nine-point lead, 62-53, on a fastbreak dunk by Wright. But Douthit, Baracael, and Dondon Hontiveros conspired on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to a single point.

Back-to-back fastbreak layups by Jordan pushed the lead back to five, 66-61, but SMART-Gilas responded with a three-point play from Douthit and a basket by Baracael.

A Daghlas three-pointer sandwiched an exchange of two three-pointers each by Zoobzokov and Casio to give Jordan a 71-69 lead. But Marcio Lassiter committed a crucial turnover with 37.9 seconds left, giving Daghlas an opportunity to ice the game with two free throws after drawing Douthit’s 5th foul in the ensuing possession.

Both teams were playing their third game in three days, but the Philippines had a much more difficult schedule in the first two days of the competition, when they defeated Iran and Chinese Taipei. Jordan, meanwhile, beat up on lightweights United Arab Emirates and Malaysia in its first two matches.

The difference in energy level between the two squads became apparent soon after tip-off, as athletic Jordan forward Ali Zaghab ran rings around the SMART-Gilas big men Marcus Douthit and Japeth Aguilar. The Philippine frontcourt duo, who had played so well in the team’s first two victories, looked visibly lethargic in the match.

Douthit, who averaged 23.5 points in his first two games to top-score for SMART-Gilas, was held to 10 points, while Aguilar scored just one basket, as they faced a monster frontcourt of Zaghab and versatile forward Zaid Abbas for most of the game.

Spitfire guard Mark Barroca kept the Filipinos in the game in the first quarter, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the opening period. But Jordan, who also enjoyed a large size advantage in the backcourt with the 6-foot-6 Sam Daghles and the 6-foot-3 Rasheim Wright, were able to shackle the SMART-Gilas guards, rendering Barroca and JVee Casio largely ineffective.

But the Philippine team showed its fighting heart, staying within striking distance against Jordan all throughout the contest. Timely hits from Mac Baracael and Chris Lutz kept the team in the game, even as Jordan tried to impose its will against the undersized Filipinos.

With his players out of sorts, Toroman dug deep into his bag of tricks to give his team a chance. He sprung a zone defense starting late in the third quarter and throughout most of the fourth quarter, daring the bigger Jordanians to shoot from outside instead. He also gave extended minutes to Baracael and Asi Taulava in lieu of Douthit and Aguilar, while inserting Chris Tiu, who normally plays the shooting guard spot, to play point guard for the team.

Barroca’s 13 points was good for top-scoring honors for SMART-Gilas, which also drew ten points apiece from Douthit, Baracael, and Lutz. Tiu added eight points.

Zaghab scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half to lead Jordan, while Daghlas had 16 points and seven assists in a fine quarterbacking perfomance. Abbas added 17 points and eight rebounds while Rasheim Wright had 12 points, six rebounds, and five assists.

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