JAKARTA -- Even a team that featured an NBA player was unable to put a stop to South Korea’s supremacy over the Philippines in the Asian Games.
Jordan Clarkson and Team Philippines did all they could on Monday, staying toe-to-toe with South Korea for the first three quarters before a series of poor possessions in the final frame doomed them in their quarterfinal match in at the Basketball Hall in the Gelora Bung Karno sports complex.
After leading by as much as eight points in the third frame, the Philippines succumbed to Korea’s hot-shooting in the final five minutes. A 91-82 loss to their perennial tormentors knocked the Filipinos out of medal contention here in Jakarta.
“It's a bad loss, but I'll take responsibility for it,” head coach Yeng Guiao immediately told reporters after the game.
“We were in the game, I think 'til the last five or six minutes, until we committed some crucial turnovers. We were just not comfortable with the zone. Even Jordan had some problems with the zone, and they just zoned us all game long,” he explained.
Momentum shifted in the Philippines’ favor in the third quarter, when Clarkson began making shots after missing 10 of his 12 field goals in the first half. The Filipino-American guard scored 15 points in the frame, drilling four three-pointers, to keep the Philippines on top.
But the wheels fell off in the final period as Korea repeatedly beat the Filipinos to offensive rebounds. The extra possessions drained the Philippine players, and they gave up open looks to Heo Ilyoung and Jeon Junbeom who made them pay from beyond the arc.
Naturalized player Ricardo Ratliffe, who sat out just a minute and a half of the game, finished with 30 points and 14 rebounds to anchor South Korea.
“We couldn’t adjust in time to the zone. I’ll take the responsibility, because we just did not prepare that long,” said Guiao.
Defensively, Guiao’s game plan was working: their single coverage on Ratliffe allowed their guards to stay home on Korea’s shooters, and as a result South Korea was only 5-of-16 from beyond the arc in the first half. Yet even as they took a lead, it was clear that the Philippines was struggling to execute against Korea’s zone defense.
“It's just that it's a new environment for us, even in the NBA they don't see any zones in the NBA. So I think it's just a function of preparing against the zone with a longer period of preparation time. Just being able to understand what to do against the zone,” said Guiao.
Despite his struggles Clarkson still finished with 25 points and eight rebounds, and displayed some superb shot-making in the third frame. Christian Standhardinger had 16 points and nine rebounds, and Stanley Pringle added 14 markers.
“I don’t think the team is to blame for it,” said Guiao, as he repeatedly stressed that the loss was on him.
“Korea just played a better game today. So, they got their rhythm with their three-point shots in the last quarter. Before that, we were playing very decent defense against them,” he added.
“It was working for three-and-a-half quarters until 'yung last five minutes. But it's a good effort. The guys gave it their all, and I couldn't ask anything more from them.”
The Philippines has not beaten South Korea in the Asian Games since 1962. Their last win over their perennial tormentors came in 2013, in the FIBA Asia Championship in Manila -- a victory that sent the Philippines to the FIBA World Cup.
With Monday’s result, the Philippines has been relegated to the classification round where they will try to salvage a fifth place finish.
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