DUBAI – Smart Gilas Pilipinas, drawing strength from the return of Jamal Sampson and the sterling efforts of guards Chris Tiu and JV Casio, subdued the Fadi El Khatib-led Champville of Lebanon, 77-71, in the Dubai Invitational at the Al Ahli Club here Saturday.
Once again cheered on by throngs of overseas Filipino workers here, the Nationals overcame El Khatib’s 40-point explosion as they bounced back from a loss to Al Jalaa of Syria Friday.
Sampson returned to action after sitting out the Syria game due to a sore knee, coming through with 13 rebounds, 11 points and two blocks as he gave the Filipinos a big boost against the Lebanese.
The 6-foot-11 NBA veteran imposed his strength at the paint, thus, opening up space for the Smart Gilas outside gunners.
Chris Tiu, the former Ateneo hotshot who’s now a popular television personality, scored a team-high 17 points, including a triple that shattered the 63-all count.
After taking the 66-63 lead, the Filipinos never looked back en route to the crucial win that brought the team back in strong contention for the knockout games.
The Filipinos automatically make the quarterfinals if they beat Zain of Jordan in their 5 p.m. (9 p.m. Manila time) showdown Sunday.
Jordan is playing here with its national team reinforced by three imports including PBA veteran Damien Cantrell.
Casio, who erupted for 23 points against the Syrians, knocked in 14 points this time with 10 coming from the foul line.
“Jamal was a big help today, providing us his inside game. If he plays until the end of the tournament, I’m optimistic of our chances because we’ll play at the level of what we can really do,” said Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman.
Smart Gilas bucked El Khatib’s 40-point output, including nine in their decisive third-quarter romp.
“I told the boys it’s okay for El Khatib to score much for as long as the other Lebanese don’t. We didn’t make a special tactic. We just took the other Lebanese players out of the game. That was the key,” said Toroman.
Champville mentor Ghassan Sarkiss was impressed by Smart Gilas.
“They played very well, very organized. They have good outside shooters and they know how to play the game,” said Sarkiss.
“They outplayed us. They deserved to win because they had a better approach on the game and they played with a lot of heart,” Sarkiss added.
Notes: Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Noli Eala, arriving here Friday afternoon, helped a lot in convincing Jamal Sampson to play against the Lebanese despite a hurting left knee ...Rico Mondejar, formerly a radio disc jockey back home, is the English-speaking game barker here. He provides the music familiar to Filipinos - the Papaya Song and the Black Eyed Peas’ Bebot.
Smart Gilas 77 – Tiu 19, Casio 14, Baracael 11, Sampson 11, Aguilar 10, Lassiter 5, Barroca 4, Ballesteros 3, Ababou 0, Cawaling 0.
Champville 71– El Khatib 40, Rida 10, Danielson 7, Thompson 4, Sakris 3, Martinez 3, Hawi 2, Cox 2.
Quarterscores: 18-25; 38-34; 54-58; 77-71