A FAMILIAR nemesis responsible for breaking the hearts of this basketball-loving country so many times once again stands in the way of Gilas Pilipinas’ bid for glory in the Fiba-Asia Championship.
South Korea set up a semifinal showdown with our own national team after disposing of Qatar in their quarterfinal showdown on Saturday, 79-52, in a match-up that relives once more the colorful rivalry between the two old basketball powers in the region.
Their inside and outside game both clicking, the Koreans raced to an early 24-14 lead, and all but wrapped up the win entering the fourth when they led the Qataris by as much as 61-42 before a still sizeable crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena that included the coaching staff of Gilas Plipinas led by Norman Black and Nash Racela.
Now, it’s the Philippines and Korea all over again for a place in the finals of the qualifier for the World Basketball Championship, with the winner clinching an outright berth to Spain next year.
The 8:30 p.m. encounter is a rematch of the 2011 battle for the bronze during the Wuhan, China edition of the meet which the Koreans won, 70-68, after storning back from a huge first half deficit.
Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes has made no effort to hide his respect for the dreaded Korean team, whose 69-68 heartbreaker of a win over Philippines during the semifinals of the 2002 Asian Games in Busan remained embedded in the memory of every Filipino cage fan.
“Koreas plays with a lot of precision,” said Reyes. “I think among other teams, they play the best defense.”
Seung Jun Lee, who had 12 points for Korea, said the crowd factor will definitely work in favor of the host.
“They (Gilas) play with a lot of energy because they’re at home,” he said.
Qatar never really got into the game after falling behind by double digit deficit in the first half.
Its woes were further compounded when naturalized player Jarvis Hayes sprained his ankle in the third period and was not fielded back again by coach Tom Wisman.
“We just couldn’t match the young legs and the intensity that they played,” said Wisman.
Korea (79) – Cho 16, Lee SJ 12, Yoon 10, Kim M. 9, Kim S. 7, Yang 7, Kim T. 6, Kim J. 6, Kim JS 4, Lee J. 2, Choi 0.
Qatar (52) – Hayes 10, Saeed 10, Daoud 9, Saad 6, Abdi 6, Elhadary 3, Musa 3, Mohammed 2, Saleem 2, Ali 1, Mohamed 0, Saleem 0.
Quarterscores: 24-14; 40-28; 61-42; 79-52.