Members of Gilas Pilipinas rejoiced after Paul Lee sank the winning free throw shots during their bronze medal game against China. Photo from FIBA Asia.net
MANILA (UPDATE) – With nerves of steel, Paul Lee sank 3 pressure-packed free throws to convert a near loss into an upset win as Gilas Pilipinas edged China, 80-79, for the bronze medal in the FIBA Asia Cup.
The Filipinos appeared headed for defeat when Kelanbaike Makan swished 2 free throws to make it 79-77 for China with 46 seconds to go.
China had a chance to extend the lead but Z. Wang flubbed both of his charities, leading to an ensuing play that had La Tenorio setting up an assist for Lee in the 3-point area. The Tondo native went for a triple but Makan rushed in and accidentally fouled Lee as time expired.
This sent Lee to the free-throw line where the Rain or Shine standout sank all of his 3 free throws and silenced a predominantly Chinese crowd at the Wuhan Sport Center.
The victory marked the Philippines' best finish in the FIBA Asia Cup (formerly known as the Stankovic Cup). The country lost both of its bronze medal games in the 2010 and 2012 editions of the tournament.
“This game was more about heart rather than talent,” Lee said after the win in the FIBA Asia website. “It looked like we got lucky in the end, but we gave our heart before that.”
China paced the game and led by as much as 10 points in the opening quarter, 22-12. But the Filipinos recovered and managed to stay close in the next two quarters.
Gilas then unreeled a 12-2 run in the fourth period, capped by Tenorio’s one-hander that tied the count at 77-all in the final minute.
“We made our own luck after that. The free throws were certainly a great show of skill as well as temperament,” said Gilas coach Chot Reyes after the win.
Ranidel de Ocampo scored 18 for the Pilippines, which also got 14 from Japeth Aguilar and 12 from Tenorio.
Beau Belga and Marcus Douthit added 10 each, while Lee, who is bidding to join Gilas’ final roster for the FIBA Worlds, tallied 7 points.
Prior to the match against China, Gilas bowed to the taller Iran squad, 76-55, in the semifinals. China, on the other hand, lost to Chinese Taipei in the other semis pairing.