TAIPEI - Gilas Pilipinas found a tall, disciplined Lithuanian side a tough mountain to climb on Friday, falling to an 80-91 defeat despite a courageous stand in the 39th Jones Cup at the Taipei Heping Gymnasium.
The Filipinos started strongly but soon reeled back as Lithuania, represented here by the reigning champion in the second division of its national league, started to impose its advantage in size while making just about everything it threw up from the outside.
Seven three-pointers in the second quarter against a Gilas zone defense enabled Lithuania to break the game open, 50-41, and send the Filipinos crashing to their third setback in seven games in this 10-nation, nine-day showpiece.
In all, Lithuania hit 14 three-pointers on 39 percent shooting against Gilas, reinforcing the claim of national coach Chot Reyes that it is 'the best team in this tournament.'
"We're proud of our guys. We played a high-quality European team and we saw some of these guys play as imports in the French league and other European leagues and in my mind, this is the best team in this Jones Cup," said Reyes.
"We battled and we battled, except for a bad stretch in the second quarter. So I'm very happy with our effort, and I felt with a little more breaks, we could've made this closer."
Eigirdas Kukauskas, a 6-6 inside-outside player described by Reyes as the best player in this Jones Cup, led the Lithuanians' impressive performance with 22 points, four rebounds, seven assists and three steals in 34 minutes.
So impeccable was the Lithuanians' outside shooting that six of the eight players fielded in by coach Virginius Seskus hit at least one three-pointer.
"Ganito pala ang pakiramdam kapag kalaban ang Golden State (Warriors)," said Gilas team manager Butch Antonio after witnessing Lithuania's torrid 7-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc in the second quarter.
Starting guard Kiefer Ravena led Gilas with 14 points, five assists and two rebounds while Roger Pogoy and Matthew Wright each had 13 points, combining for four of the Philippines' seven three-pointers.
Import Mike Myers added 14 points and seven rebounds while Fil-German Christian Standhardinger bounced back from a poor showing against Iraq with a nine-point, two-rebound performance off the bench.
Ar Pogoy three-pointer right in the game's first possession set the tone for a strong start by Gilas, whose players were dwarfed by a Lithuanian team made up mostly of players in the 6-foot-4 to 6-9 except for the two point guards.
Gilas opened as much as an 18-10 lead in the first quarter before the Lithuanians slowly turned the game around by punishing the Filipinos' zone defense with flawless execution and impeccable shooting from three-point land, where they made 45 percent of their shots.
By the turn, Lithuania was in control, 50-41.
The Lithuanians, still in title contention with a 6-1 (win-loss) record, led by as much as 20 points, 70-50, late in the third quarter and only a brave final stand by Gilas cut the deficit to what it was in the end.
LITHUANIA 91 – Zukauskas 22, Seskus E. 19, Vingelis 13, Linkevicius 11, Beniusis 11, Suskus D. 7, Jocys 6, Volkus 2, Apsitis 0.
PHILIPPINES 80 – Ravena 14, Myers 14, Pogoy 13, Wright 13, Standhardinger 9, Jalalon 5, Jose 2, Belo 0, Parks Jr. 0, Ferrer 0.
Quarterscores: 17-22; 50-41; 72-59; 91-80.