CHINESE TAIPEI – Smart Gilas Pilipinas, foiled in its title crack by Iran, vented its ire on Chinese-Taipei as it fashioned out an 82-72 victory to clinch third place honors in the William Jones Cup here yesterday.
Marcus Douthit, humiliated by NBA veteran Hamed Haddadi in Iran’s masterful 78-59 win over Smart Gilas in the semis, redeemed himself with a double-double output, powering his way to 28 points and hauling down 11 rebounds to lead the Nationals past the hosts to the dismay of the hostile crowd at the Hsinjhuang Stadium in New Taipei City.
"Our goal is to be in the top three and we made it," said Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman, whose wards matched Team Philippines finish in the annual event four years ago.
He added the win more than made up for the Nationals’ embarrassing loss to Haddadi and the Iranians last Saturday.
"It left a bad taste in the mouth, that Iran loss yesterday (Saturday) because we played very, very bad," said Toroman. "But we played good (against Taiwanese), we need this game badly for our confidence and I congratulate my players because it’s not easy to play nine straight games."
Marcio Lassiter, Dondon Hontiveros and Mark Barroca stepped up to fire 16, 13 and 10 points, respectively, in the absence of JV Casio (swollen knee) and Chris Lutz (swollen elbow).
Chris Tiu struggled with just a point but he teamed up with Barroca, who also bucked a sprained ankle, in orchestrating the team’s play patterns.
"We responded well from a bad game last night (Saturday), the guys came out and played with aggression and a lot of energy even though we're playing without our two guys," said Douthit, who went 12-of-18 from the field.
"My hats off also to our wings for denying their shooters," he added.
The Filipinos, cheered on by a small but loud crowd headed by Sen. Allan Peter Cayetano and Powerade governor JB Baylon, were already celebrating as early as midway of the fourth quarter when Japeth Aguilar rammed in a slam off a Lassiter assist.
Douthit bullied his way through the Taipei defense early on, exploding with 20 points – nine in the first quarter and 11 in the second – as the Filipinos raced to 10-point leads twice before settling for a 43-34 margin at the turn.
Chien Chia Hung, a 6-5 bruiser, kept the hosts in the game with sneaky shots over the taller, slower Douthit and twice pushed his team to within two and three-point leads.
Earlier, Japan pounced on the absence of Osama Daghles as it stunned Jordan, 77-73, to clinch fifth place.
Meanwhile, Toroman stressed the need to strengthen the team’s power forward position as they gear up for the FIBA-Asia Championship slated Sept. 15-25 in Wuhan, China where a lone berth in the 2012 London Olympics is at stake.
"I've been saying all these years that our main problem is at position four," said Toroman.
The Filipinos lost games to the Jordanians, Iranians and even the Koreans largely because of that particular weakness, which Toroman hopes to fill with the addition of Talk N' Text's Kelly Williams and Ranidel de Ocampo.
Williams and de Ocampo, along with teammate Jimmy Alapag, are rejoining the Nationals after the PBA finale between Talk N' Text and Petron Blaze late this month in time for the four-team joust in Doha, Qatar that features Smart Gilas, Lebanon, Jordan and the host country.
"We need Kelly Williams and Ranidel de Ocampo badly, they can help us get rebounds and defend the position four from other teams," said Toroman.
The national team stunned Iran, 73-59, in Day 1 of the tournament last Aug. 6 with an off-form Haddadi, who played with the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA, before beating Taipei the next day, 90-78.
The Nationals then lost two close matches in their next three games, against Jordan (76-72) and Korea (78-70) while beating the country's Southeast Asian neighbor Malaysia (86-68). The team closed out the eliminations with wins against the United Arab Emirates (95-60) and Japan (94-78).
In the semis, Haddadi dominated the inside game with 36 points, and Iran controlled the boards, 78-59.
Meanwhile, the Nationals will play in a single round robin in Group D in the FIBA-Asia against China, Bahrain and UAE with Toroman confident of the team's chances to advance in the next round where the top three teams from Groups A and B will be combined with Group E, while the three best teams in groups C and D will be joined together in Group F.
The preliminary records will not be carried over in the second stage where teams will play in another single round robin. The top four teams from groups E and F will advance to the crossover quarterfinals knockout round with the winners moving to the semis and then the Finals.