SMART Gilas 2.0 bounced back from a sorry opening day setback as it downed defending champion Lebanon, 78-68, and get back on track in the Fiba Asia Cup championship Saturday at the Ota gym in Tokyo, Japan.
Marcus Douthit was a dominant force for the team in the middle, pouring in 25 points and grabbing 21 rebounds in steering the Nationals – endlessly cheered on by a horde of OFWs in the Japanesa capital -- to the rousing win for an even 1-1 record in Group A.
The triumph made up for the 71-68 heartbreaker Gilas suffered against a youthful China team in Friday’s opener of the tournament.
It also avenged a 19-point loss the Nationals suffered against Lebanon in the 34th William Jones Cup basketball tournament – their lone setback in a campaign that saw them runaway with the championship.
“It was important for us to bounce back after a tough loss,” said national coach Chot Reyes. “But also, it was for the Jones Cup (loss), when we didn’t take that team seriously. This is a tougher Lebanon team and we played great defense on them.”
Lebanon, indeed, had a different look this time as it paraded the great Fadi El-Khatib and a new naturalized player in Garnett Thompson, a former teammate of Douthit at Providence.
The two did the most damage early on as the Lebanese held a 41-38 lead at the half where they combined for 28 of the team’s total output.
But the Nationals, despite struggling with their outside shooting for the second straight game, played a strong second half anchored on the 6-foot-11 Douthit.
Gilas’ naturalized player was particularly unstoppable when the game was on the line, scoring nine of his output in the fourth period, including seven straight points that towed the Nationals to their biggest lead of the game at 70-61. Douthit capped his one-man show with a powerful slam off a perfect pick-and-roll between him and Larry Fonacier.
Gary David took over from there.
“El Granada’ hit a pair of baskets, including a breakaway layup off a Douthit block on El-Khatib at the other end, that kept the rallying Lebanese side at bay, 74-68.
Khatib played for the entire 40-minute game to lead the Lebanese with 24 points on 11-of-12 shooting from the foul line.
Lebanon now also has an even 1-1 card,.
The Nationals see action for the third straight day as they tackle Uzbekistan on Sunday. The Uzbeks debuted in style by blasting winless Macau, 81-61.
In Group B, Japan notched a second straight win by demolishing Chinese-Taipei, 90-78, behind the 19 points and 10 rebounds of naturalized player JR Sakuragi (JR Henderson).
Qatar made it to the win column as it turned back India, 84-63.
SMART GILAS-PILIPINAS (78) -- Douthit 25, David 11, Tenorio 11, Norwood 10, De Ocampo 8, Fonacier 3, Thoss 0, Chan 0.
LEBANON (68) --– El Khatib 24, Thompson 17, Akl 10, Abdelmour 8, El Khatib C. 4, Sarkis 3, Stephan 2, Tabet 0.
Quarterscores: 19-20, 38-41, 59-53, 78-68.