MANILA, Philippines - Finally, the Korean jinx is over.
Smart Gilas Pilipinas 2.0 hung tough to end a series of heartbreaks against the Koreans with a nail-biting 82-79 win over South Korea's champion club team Anyang KGC today in the 34th Williams Jones Cup International Basketball Tournament in Chinese Taipei.
Sol Mercado and Gabe Norwood conspired in the payoff period to rally Gilas within a striking distance before Gary David uncorked two straight jumpers to preserve the national squad's unbeaten run.
After David's back-to-back jumpers gave Gilas a two-point cushion, 81-79, Norwood split his charities that opened another window for Koreans to send the game into overtime.
But alas, the Koreans, who have been giving Filipinos heartbreaking losses starting in the 2002 Busan Asian Games semifinals up to last year's FIBA-Asia bronze medal game, flubbed a potential game-tying triple at the buzzer to allow Gilas to escape with their third straight win.
The unbeaten Filipinos will next face Japan tomorrow.
Gilas led by double digits in the second quarter behind Jeff Chan's hot hands but the Koreans went to their import Juan Pattillo, who had 13 first half points, to come within a basket, 40-42, at the break.
The Koreans outscored the Filipinos, 31-23, in the third canto to get the upperhand.
But David started to get hot, opening the final period with five straight points to bring Gilas within just one point, 70-71.
The win forced a three-way logjam
at the top spot with the club teams from USA and Iran in the tournament, which crowns the best team after the single-round robin classification.