HWASEONG, South Korea - Gilas Pilipinas' quest for a gold medal in the 17th Asian Games took a major blow on Friday when it was sent crashing by Qatar, 68-77, before stunned supporters at the Hwaseong Sports Gymnasium.
Just a day after letting a win get away against reigning Asian champion Iran, the Filipinos' title bid was left in tatters by a tall Qatar team that shot the lights out in a 15-0 start to the second half that turned the game around.
The Qataris opened a 51-39 lead and not even a gallant push led by Jimmy Alapag could save the Filipinos from a team they beat on the way to a runner-up finish in last year's Fiba-Asia championships in Manila.
The loss, coming at the heels of a 63-68 loss to Iran, left the Filipinos on the brink of elimination, needing to win over host South Korea on Saturday and Kazakhstan on Sunday to have any hope of advancing to the semifinals.
Coach Chot Reyes is well aware beating the Sokors right in front of their countrymen is like going through the eye of a needle.
“The Koreans might be a dangerous team because the crowd supports them,” he said.
The clash with the Koreans mark the first time Gilas will meet them since a memorable 86-79 win during the semifinals of the Fiba-Asia Men's Championship last year in Manila.
Gilas appeared to be in control of the game after finishing the first half on top, 39-36.
Then suddenly came the meltdown.
The Qataris delivered the fatal blows in the third period when Gilas Pilipinas wasn’t looking, fuelling a stunning 20-3 run built around five triples to break away from a close first half en route to the victory.
During that stretch, Gilas was hounded by a maze of turnovers, horrible shooting, and faulty passing, as it failed to score a field goal for over eight minutes.
The only points of the nationals came from the foul line, courtesy of Gary David (2) and Paul Lee (1).
In contrast, the Qataris, not entirely known for their shooting, buried five straight triples to start the second half, three from Yousuf Mohamed, to tear the game wide open at 56-42.
Alapag then came off the bench and singlehandedly brought Gilas back into the game, 51-56, with nine straight points, all from three-point land.
When Gilas threatened to make it a game after coming to within 63-68 on two freebies by Gabe Norwood in the fourth, Qatar’s naturalized point guard Boney Watson strung up four straight points, before Mohamed hit a twinner to finally take the fight out of the nationals, 74-65, with less than a minute left.