MANILA, Philippines - The PBA select team completed a two-game sweep for the hosts in the Philippine-China Friendship Games, banking on a strong finish to whip the Shanghai Sharks, 80-71, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.
Beau Belga, Paul Lee, Arwind Santos and KG Canaleta worked on an amazing 17-2 closing run as they duplicated Smart Gilas’ 80-72 win over the visiting Chinese squad Monday.
Somehow, the PBA select squad and Gilas Pilipinas – featuring cadet players – proved that the Filipinos are still competitive in international play.
The PBA selection, from teams failing to make the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Final Four, somehow underscored that the Philippines has got a deep bench for the national team.
Consider Belga coming through with team-highs of 16 points and nine rebounds, Paul Lee getting away with nine points, four rebounds and three assists and Doug Kramer contributing eight markers, eight boards and one assist.
Belga has played for the Phl team only in Southeast Asian level while Lee and Kramer have never donned the national jersey.
Santos, a member of the Phl team in the 2009 Tianjin Asian meet, tallied 15 points and five rebounds while KG Canaleta, many times a Phl team alternate, knocked in three three-pointers, including the one that shattered the 71-all count with 1:36 left to play.
"We really have a lot of good players to be considered for the national team. Unfortunately, the national team needs just 12 players. In fact, players playing in the (PBA) semis are not here. There’s no question we have an abundance of talent," noted national coach Chot Reyes, who watched the game on the sideline.
Reyes wasn’t surprised the PBA select team, without the benefit of a single practice, cut down to size the tall Shanghai Sharks team of former NBA star Yao Ming.
"I've said it many times before if it’s commercial team versus commercial team, we’ll be there fighting even if it's China, Korea or whichever. It is tough when it comes to national team. They have the advantage because they have a big pool of players and they train together for a long time," said Reyes.
"Tayo patche-patche lang lagi. That's our drawback," Reyes added.
Considering that they were together just for this match, Santos and company dished out a remarkable game under coach Franz Pumaren.
They made a big turnaround from an eight-point deficit early in the fourth quarter, holding the Chinese to a single field-goal basket in the last four minutes to pull off the win.
JayR Reyes and Belga alternated on 7-foot-3 Shanghai center Zhaoxu Zhang. With Kramer and Santos providing double, the PBA squad limited Zhang to 23 points in 32 minutes of action.
At endgame, Lee and Mike Cortez pressured the Shanghai guards, disallowing them from getting the ball to the post.
Lee pulled back-to-back steals, the second one setting up Santos for a breakaway layup to give the PBA a first taste of the lead for a long, long while at 71-69.
The PBA stars kept the defensive pressure on the Chinese to the finish, completing a feel-good win that somehow eased the disappointment of the crowd on the no-show of Yao, who left home yesterday morning.
PBA 80 – Belga 16, Santos 15, Lee 9, Canaleta 9, Kramer 8, Cortez 7, Tiu 7, Reyes 5, Miller 2, Hodge 2, Cabagnot 0.
Shanghai 71 – Zhang 23, Meng 15, Wang S. 10, Yuan 7, Wang L. 6, Liang 6, Yi 4, Yang G. 0, Yang W. 0.
Quarterscores: 11-17, 36-38, 55-59, 80-71