GILAS Pilipinas bounced back in a big way after a meltdown against Chinese-Taipei in the 27th Fiba-Asia Championship, dealing Japan a 90-71 hammering for a rousing start in the second round of the preliminaries on Monday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Marcus Douthit had 13 of his game-high 19 points in the opening half to help the nationals get off to their best start in the tournament that pushed them back in serious contention for one of three berths at stake to next year’s World Basketball Championship.
The 19-point victory improved Gilas’ record to 2-1 in Group E and atoned for the heartbreaker Gilas suffered against Chinese Taipei, 84-79, in a first-round encounter that saw the home team relinquish a huge 13-point lead entering the fourth.
Against the Japanese, the nationals made sure there won’t be any repeat of that final 10-minute meltdown.
“I’m a firm believer in life that you got to learn to get up once you stumbled,” said coach Chot Reyes, finally able to flash a smile during the post-game interview.
"That was what we talked about in a team meeting last night," he added. "We should forget about the Taipei loss and go into tonight's game completely without any baggage."
Held to a tight first quarter, the nationals took control of the game for good in the second quarter when they finally found their range from beyond the arc. They fired 5-of-8 from three-point land, including three by Ranidel de Ocampo.
Back-to-back treys by De Ocampo and Jimmy Alapag gave Gilas its first sizeable lead, 44-34, before the nationals poured it all in the third quarter when Jeff Chan and LA Tenorio joined the fray.
Chan opened the second half with back-to-back three-pointers to rip the game apart. By the time Douthit hit two free throws with 9:47 to go, the lead already ballooned to its biggest at 77-51.
“We just wanted to show that we can bounce back,” said De Ocampo, who was 3-of-3 from three-point region. “There’s no time to get tired right now. We just want to get focused for the coming games.”
Chan fired 14 points in the second half to finish with 16, going 4-of-5 on three-pointers, while Tenorio went 2-of-3 from the same spot to finish with nine.
In all, Gilas shot 60 percent from three-point land on 12-of-20 shooting.
“We’re disappointed. We can’t stop their outside shooting,” said Kosuke Takeuchi, who was the second leading scorer for Japan with 17 points.
Japanese coach Kimikazu Suzuki agreed with his star player, but at the same time added, “we gave them so much points off turnovers.”
Gilas did outscore Japan, who suffered their second loss in three outings, off turnovers, 22-4.
But the more than 13,000 crowd at the MOA Arena reserved its biggest cheer for Gilas shooting guard Gary David, who had been on a shooting slump in the tournament.
David finished the game with five points, all of them made in the final three minutes when Reyes fielded him back amidst chants of 'Gary! Gary! Gary!' and Gilas up by as many as 82-65.
Philippines (90) - Douthit 19, Chan 16, Tenorio 9, De Ocampo 9, William 7, Norwood 7, Aguilar 7, David 5, Alapag 6, Fonacier 3, Pingris 2, Fajardo 0.
Japan (71) - Sakuragi 19, Takiuchi 17, Hiejima 9, Tsuji 8, Matsui 6, Kanamaru 4, Ota 2, Watanabe 2, Kurihara 2, Sakirai 2, Ichioka 0, Tanaka 0.
Quarterscores: 17-14; 46-36; 74-61; 90-71.