The SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national squad lost steam in the fourth quarter, succumbing to Korea, 78-70, for its second loss in five games at the 2011 Jones Cup in Taipei.
South Korea’s twin tower combination of 7-foot-3 former Portland Trailblazers center Ha Seung Jin and athletic power forward Oh Sek Eun dealt key blows to the Filipinos, whose own tower of power, Marcus Douthit, battled foul trouble in the second half.
Oh scored 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, while Ha added 16 points, including a putback dunk with about a minute remaining that pushed the the Korean lead to 76-70. SMART-Gilas firebrand JVee Casio had his best game of the tournament, burning the hoops for 27 points including four three-pointers, but missed a crucial three-pointer with less than a minute remaining, but missed a crucial open three-pointer with less than a minute left that sealed the fate of the Philippines.
Naturalized Korean Jarod Stevenson, who was rechristened Ta-Jong (TJ) Moon, nailed two free throws in the ensuing possession for the final score.
SMART-Gilas coach Rajko Toroman noted that South Korea was a tough assignment, and even sat out Casio and Douthit in Tuesday’s match against lightweight Malaysia to rest for the game. The gambit worked, with Casio and Douthit, who scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds, carrying the fight for the Philippines for most of the game.
It was a nip-and-tuck affair for most of the game, with the last deadlock coming on a fourth quarter Chris Tiu layup that knotted the score at 63-all. But South Korea took advantage of the foul problems of Douthit, who committed his fourth personal foul with more than seven minutes left in the game, unleashing a 10-0 run that gave it a 73-63 advantage.
But SMART-Gilas, with Douthit back in tow, would just not go away. Casio, Tiu, and Mac Baracael conspired on a 7-1 run to give SMART-Gilas a fighting chance with less than two minutes left in the match.
The South Koreans responded by doing what had been most effective for them in the fourth quarter: dumping the ball down low. An isolation play for Oh against the undersized Baracael drew Douthit’s attention, leaving the humongous Ha open for the putback slam that put the game away.
After licking their wounds, the Filipinos will go up against another lightweight squad, the United Arab Emirates, on Thursday. SMART-Gilas will wrap up its preliminary round campaign on Friday against dangerous Japan, which dealt Jordan a loss in the game preceding the Philippines-South Korea affair.
Sweet-shooting forward Yang Dong-Geun had 17 points and six rebounds, while Moon posted 11 point and ten rebounds for Korea, which remained the only undefeated team in the eight-nation tournament after five games.
Baracael added 13 points for the Philippine cause.