TAIPEI – Smart Gilas Pilipinas, upended rival South Korea for the first time in a long, long while and provided some balm to a nation grieving over the death of a public official.
Gary David, the scoring champ in the PBA the last three seasons, stepped up under pressure at endgame, draining two clutch baskets to lift the Nationals past the Koreans, 82-79, in a nerve-wracking duel in the William Jones international tournament at the TPEC Gymnasion yesterday..
It was the Nationals' third straight win which they dedicated to the departed DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo.
"That's for Sec. Robredo and his companions who perished in the tragedy," said Smart Gilas coach Chot Reyes.
"Before the game, we talked about the situation in the Philippines. There's a lot of bad news and sadness happening back home, and we can't do anything here in Taipei. We said let's do something for the nation to be proud of and to be happy about even for a moment. The players responded," Reyes also said.
"Our hearts go out to the situation back home," said Gabe Norwood, among the players who responded big time, coming through with solid all-around numbers of 10 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two blocks and one steal in 26 minutes of action.
Marcus Douthit, Jeff Chan and Sol Mercado also did their jobs but David seized the moment in the end with back-to-back perimeter jumpers, capping Gilas' amazing comeback from a 12-point deficit midway through the third period.
"It's all about heart we showed for our country, our countrymen," said David, finishing with 13 points, two rebounds and one steal in 17:05 of action.
Falling behind by three as Norwood knocked in a free throw with 24.1 seconds left, the Koreans opted to play the time, trying to work on a game-tying three-pointer.
The Nationals and their sizable crowd in the gallery erupted in a frenzied celebration as point guard Tae Sul Kim misfired a trey from the right quartercourt.
Smart Gilas stayed in the lead with Iran and the US at 3-0 while South Korea dropped to 2-2. The Americans drubbed the Koreans, 84-75, late Monday night.
Made up of young pros playing in the NBA D-League and overseas, the US squad, handled by coach Travis McAvene, made it three in a row with a 126-71 rout of Chinese Taipei B also yesterday.
US and Iran play at 1 p.m. while Smart Gilas takes on Japan at 5 p.m. today.
Utilizing drive-and-kick plays, the Nationals more than held their own against the Koreans in three-point shooting with Chan knocking in four and David, Norwood, LA Tenorio, Larry Fonacier and Garvo Lanete hitting one each.
Smart Gilas hit at a 9-of-28 overall clip as against Korea’s 5-of-20.
Korean imports Juan Pattillo and Garrett Stutz combined for 30 points and 15 rebounds but the Nationals neutralized these with their balanced game.
NOTES: Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio, among coach Chot Reyes’ deputies in Gilas, is now here, arriving Monday night after attending his duties with the Bolts in Sunday’s PBA Rookie Draft. Also here is businessman Arben Santos who backs former Ateneo players Rico Villanueva, Larry Fonacier and LA Tenorio in their careers.....Five-foot-9 US player James Justice has emerged as the crowd favorite in the tourney with his unbelievable slams. He’s a former slam dunk champion in the US with Martin Methodist College.
The Nationals jumped the gun on the Koreans early, leading by 14 at 37-23.
Smart Gilas 82 – Chan 14, David 13, Douthit 11, Norwood 10, Mercado 9, Fonacier 7, Tenorio 5, De Ocampo 4, Thoss 4, Lanete 3, Ganuelas 2, Villanueva 0.
Korea 79 – Pattillo 19, Jung 14, Stutz 11, Choi 10, Kim 9, Yang 8, Lee 6, Kim 2, Cha 0.
Quarterscores: 24-17, 42-40, 65-71, 82-79