The heart-stopping manner in which the Philippines downed basketball nemesis South Korea on Wednesday will be etched in fans' memories for a long time.
But how SJ Belangel ended up with the ball in the dying seconds — which culminated in him sticking the dagger 3-pointer as the clock expired — was just as important as his game-winning basket.
The decision that set Belangel up appeared innocuous, a simple inbounds play by Dwight Ramos to the gutsy point guard.
If Ramos hadn't given up the rock in time, however, the Gilas Pilipinas possession would have been lost and Korea, not the hosts, would have had the final crack at pulling off a heartbreaker.
"Dwight did the smart thing because the worst thing would have been to get a 5-second call and give Korea the ball with a chance to win the game," Philippines head coach Tab Baldwin said after Gilas bagged the pulsating 81-78 win to start the Clark leg of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers.
"So Dwight took the first available option, and that was SJ, and then SJ just made a play. So I mean yes, he was an option, but really just an entry option just to get the ball inbounds."
Baldwin said he first wanted Carl Tamayo to receive the ball under the basket with Ramos feeding Tamayo a direct entry pass. Time was down to 2.9 seconds.
But Gilas abandoned that option when center Ra Guna switched onto Tamayo and Ange Koaume got lost in the play, nullifying the option to get to the middle of the lane.
Pressed for time and with forward Yang Hongseok covering him well, Ramos found Belangel darting from the baseline. Two dribbles and a pump-fake to shake off center Lee Seounghyun later, Belangel heaved the off-balance 3-pointer for the dramatic win.
Baldwin gave props to not only Belangel, who has had a history of producing under pressure with Baldwin on the Ateneo Blue Eagles, but to Ramos for finding Belangel.
"The credit has to go to Dwight for making a smart play and SJ just making a play," Baldwin said.
"I mean, it's, it's one of those ones that you see every now and then and everybody enjoys it, except the other team."
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