TAIPEI – Smart Gilas-Pilipinas came out flat and never recovered in a 91-72 rout at the hands of Lebanon for its first loss in the 34th William Jones Cup basketball tournament at the TPEC gymnasium.
After back-to-back wins over South Korea and Japan in a two-day span that saw them come back from double-digit deficits, the Nationals never really got into a groove against a Lebanese side that played minus star players Fadi al-Khatib, Ali Mahmoud, Charles Tabet and Elie Rustom.
Behind a barrage of three-pointers by Elie Stephan and the overall play of Jean Abdelnour and American import Jarrid Famous, the Lebanese raced to a 43-32 lead at the half. They eventually hiked the lead to 78-50 as the National simply couldn’t find their rhythm.
Stephan torched the Nationals for 28 points, built on seven three-pointers, while Famous, a recently naturalized 6-foot-9 player who once suited up as a PBA import, outplayed Gilas’ Marcus Douthit inside the paint with 26 points and 11 rebounds.
The loss broke the four-game winning run by Nationals as they fell a game behind defending champion Iran going to their Friday showdown. Smart Gilas needs to beat the Iranians to keep its title hopes alive.
Lebanon won its second straight game and raised its record to 2-4.
Douthit was in early foul trouble again and finished with just 11 points, compounding the woes of a misfiring Gilas team that converted just three of 16 attempts from three-point range and made just 41 percent of its shots.
“Our shooters can’t make shots, they didn’t have their legs,” admitted coach Chot Reyes. “You can’t allow yourself to fall behind big and try and catch up.”
He added, “we got outplayed, they came in with a solid game plan and kicked our butts. That’s the best lesson we’ve learned so far in this tournament. Our players need to play successive game and get used to it.”
Still, Reyes is not losing hope about the Nationals’ chance to regain the title the country last won by Tim Cone’s celebrated Centennial Team in 1998.
“If we can beat Iran, I still think we have a chance,” said Reyes.
PBA Commissioner Chito Salud agreed. Arriving in the Chinese-Taipei capital for the tournament on Thursday along with league chairman Robert Non and media bureau chief Willie Marcial, Salud said the Nationals have to forget about this loss to Lebanon.
“Lebanon simply outplayed us. Rest and focus on tomorrow’s game versus Iran,” said Salud ina text message. “The tournament is to be won or lost tomorrow.”
Lebanon (91) -- Stephan 28, Famous 26, Abdelnour 14, El Khatib 12, Kanaan 4, Akl 3, Martinez 2, Iskandar 2, Souaid 0, R. Iskandar 0, Sarkis 0.
Smart Gilas-Pilipinas (72) -- Norwood 15, Douthit 11, Mercado 11, Rosser 6, Tenorio 6, David 5, Thoss 4, Villanueva 3, Chan 3, De Ocampo 2, Fonacier 2.
Quarterscores: 22-15, 43-32, 74-46, 91-72.