SMART Gilas-Pilipinas 2.0 rode on the fourth-quarter explosion of L.A Tenorio and the dominant presence of Marcus Douthit inside to oust Chinese-Taipei, 75-66, and book a berth in the semifinals of the Fiba Asia Cup championhip Thursday at the Ota gym in Tokyo, Japan.
Reminiscent of his heroics against the same Taipei team as well as in the championship-clinching game against Team USA in the 34th William Jones Cup basketball tournament, Tenorio took charge in the payoff period and scored seven points in a telling 13-2 blast that turned a slim one-point lead to 68-55.
In all, the Jones Cup MVP had nine in the quarter including the two free throws in the final 24 seconds that clinched the quarterfinal win for Gilas, 73-66.
Wildly cheered on by a crowd of flag-waving Filipinos that include Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas officials led by president Manny V. Pangilinan and PBA commissioner Chito Salud and members of the league board headed by Robert Non, the Nationals arrange a semifinal clash with powerhouse Iran on Friday.
The Iranians routed Uzbekistan in their own quarterfinal showdown earlier, 79-37.
Until the decisive run, it was Douthit who carried the fight for the Nationals, pouring in 13 points and 11 rebounds at the half to give the team a 38-32 lead.
The naturalized big man finished with 19 points, 18 rebounds, and four block shots.
“We played a terrible game, but still found ways to win,” said coach Chot Reyes afterwards.
Gary David gave the Nationals their biggest lead of the game at 71-57 on a three-pointer with 3:51 left, before the team suddenly went cold and turned the ball over a few times.
That allowed Chinese-Taipei to spring back to life, unraveling nine straight points led by Chen Shieh-cheh to threaten at 66-71.
But Tenorio’s two foul shots kept the opposition at bay as the Nationals repeated over the Taiwanese, whom they also beat, 76-72, in the Jones Cup.
Taiwanese-American Douglas Creighton kept Chinese-Taipei within striking distance of the Philippines for the first three quarters when he scored 20 points on 6-of-7 shooting from three-point range.
But the unheralded 6-foot-6 forward was silent in the pivotal fourth when he was held to just a solitary point.
The Nationals are currently on a four-game win streak after losing their opening day match against China.
By making the semis, Smart Gilas is also assured of equaling the fourth place finish of its predecessor during the 2010 edition of the biennial meet in Lebanon.
Smart Gilas-Pilipinas (75) -- Douthit 19, David 14, De Ocampo 10, Fonacier 9, Tenorio 9, Chan 5, Dillinger 5, Norwood 4, Thoss 0.
Chinese-Taipei (68) -- Creighton 21, Lin 12, Chen 11, Tien 7, Wu 6, Mao 4, Lee 3, Chang 3, Tseng 1, Lu 0.
Quarterscores: 10-13, 38-32, 54-53, 75-68.