MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) The Philippine men's national basketball team won the William Jones Cup for the first time since 1998 after LA Tenorio powered Smart Gilas Pilipinas past the United States, 76-75, at the Taipei PE College gym Sunday.
|Coach Chot Reyes and the rest of the Smart Gilas Pilipinas team pose with the Philippine flag after winning the William Jones Cup against the United States, 76-75. Photo from the Facebook page of Smart Gilas Pilipinas
Tenorio, the smallest man on the court at 5-foot-8, had an inspired performance as he fired 20 points, 11 of which came in the pivotal fourth period.
He provided the biggest bucket of the night – a jumper with 20 seconds left in the game that put Gilas ahead for good.
Tenorio's basket completed a stunning comeback for Gilas, as the national team trailed by as much as 14 points in the first half and again by 13 points in the third quarter, before the diminutive point guard led their rally.
Tenorio scored seven points in a 10-0 to open the final quarter as the Philippines clawed back in the game, and it was a back-and-forth battle the rest of the way as the two squads exchanged leads.
"I admit, we are already very tired," Tenorio said in an interview with PBA.ph. "But like Michael Jordan said, 'The heart never gets tired.'"
"It was all heart for us out there," he added.
Strong start for US
The Philippines finished the tournament with a 7-1 record, while the United States finished with a 5-3 slate.
Gilas' only loss came at the hands of Lebanon.
It seemed as though Gilas was on its way to another heartbreaker as the taller, more athletic Americans got off to a strong start, and led 34-23 after the opening half.
But with Tenorio catching fire and naturalized player Marcus Douthit providing the defensive presence, Gilas rallied to turn the game into a close contest.
A defensive breakdown by Gilas led to a Jermaine Dearman lay-up with less than 40 seconds to go that gave the US their last lead of the game at 75-74.
But Tenorio quickly erased the deficit when he buried the game-winner just a few seconds later.
"I'm in kind of a loss for words right now because my guys played their hearts out," said US coach Travis McAvene. "We just didn't make the stops that we needed in the last 30 seconds."
"And that's basketball. Games are won or lost on stops, free throws and lay-ups," he added.
McAvene also commended Tenorio, saying he was the "big difference" in the game.
“I think we did a good job on him in the first half, but he started getting into the groove in the second half,” he said. “He penetrated too much, creating plays and hitting shots himself.”
"We have to give the Philippines the credit," McAvene added. "They came back when they're down and made the shots down the stretch."
It was the fourth time that the Philippines had won the Jones Cup. The last Filipino team to win the Cup was the Philippine Centennial Team in 1998, which was coached by Tim Cone.
Gilas head coach Chot Reyes said it was his players' collective heart that won the Jones Cup, seeing as they were probably "the weakest Philippine team, the least prepared, the smallest."
"What it has got is a big heart," Reyes said.
Gilas prepared for barely three weeks, yet copped a championship at the Asian level for the first time in 14 years.
"Before the game, we just said, 'Imagine the Philippines playing the US for the gold in a basketball game.' I know it's just a Jones Cup, an Asian level, but I don’t know if it’s gonna happen again in our lives," Reyes said. "We said, we take this opportunity."
"Heart won it for us versus Japan, Korea, Iran, and the US. These guys just don’t know the meaning of 'quit.'"
The United States actually had the chance to win the game following Tenorio's go-ahead basket, but Mychal Kearse bricked a jump shot, and Tenorio grabbed the biggest rebound of the night.
With 1.9-seconds left, Jeff Chan missed two free throws and the United States could not get a shot off as the buzzer sounded. – With a report from The Philippine Star
SMART GILAS PILIPINAS 76 – Tenorio 20, Chan 18, Douthit 17, Fonacier 9, Norwood 5, David 5, De Ocampo 2, Thoss 0, Mercado 0.
UNITED STATES 75 – Arnold 17, Justice 17, Marshall 14, Barnes 13, Dearman 10, Vandermeer 2, Reese 0, Williams 0.
Quarter scoring: 12-13, 23-34, 51-59, 76-75