SMART GILAS STUNS IRAN, MOVES TO THE TOP IN JONES CUP STANDINGS
By Ronnie Nathanielsz
Sat, 25 Aug 2012
Smart Gilas Pilipinas stunned previously unbeaten powerhouse Iran 77-75 to grab the top spot in the 34th staging of the Jones Cup to move to within two games of winning the coveted championship in Taipei.
The Philippine National Team which suffered a rout at the hands of Lebanon on Thursday came back with a vengeance, demonstrating an unrivaled fighting spirit in a remarkable turnaround to stop the Iranians who are seeking a fourth straight Jones Cup triumph.
Astute basketball observers felt that coach Chot Reyes used a strategic retreat in the Lebanon game pulling out Douthit and shooting stars Jeff Chan and Gary David along with point guard LA Tenorio in the final quarter to rest them for today's crucial game and to also give the Iranians a false sense of security.
The ploy worked and the Filipinos with excellent coaching by Reyes and what he termed a win that was "not pretty but gutsy" scored one of the country's first wins against Iran in years although the Philippines under former Iranian coach Rajko Toroman had earlier inflicted one of the few defeats on Iran in the Jones Cup.
Gabe Norwood of PBA champions Rain or Shine who has had an outstanding tournament so far came through with another superb all-around game to be named "Best Player of the Game" by the AKTV IBC 13 television panel.
Norwood who scored 17 points made the big baskets in crucial situations aside from defending tenaciously.
Naturalized American Marcus Douthit, coming off a disappointing game against Lebanon when he got into early foul trouble, came back strongly to power his way in the paint against the Iranian giants and never flinched until he got hit in the groin in the dying minutes of the game and had to be replaced by Sonny Thoss with just under five minutes to play but was forced to return and scored a crucial basket but missed a three-point play opportunity to give the Philippines a 76-71 lead with 31.5 seconds remaining.
A basket by Nikkah Bahrami cut the lead to three after which Ranidel De Ocampo felt the mounting pressure and uncharacteristically missed two free throws with Bahrani scoring once more to bring Iran to within one at 76-75 with 7.7 seconds on the game clock.
The Iranians had no choice but to foul but picked the wrong man in Rain or Shine's "Best Player" of the PBA championship series Jeff Chan who coolly canned the first of two charities under intense pressure but missed the second to push Smart Gilas ahead 77-75.
With 5.8 seconds remaining Iran as expected went for a three-point shot which would have been a heartbreaker if they converted but good defense forced them into a desperate three-point heave by Mehdi Kamrani who missed as time expired.
Douthit's slam off a de Ocampo miss followed by another basket by the towering center helped tie the score at 8-8 six minutes into the first quarter before Chan's three free throws on a useless foul on a three-point attempt followed by a triple and a Norwood jam opened up a 21-16 lead before the quarter ended 21-19.
After Norwood scored back-to-back baskets, one on a dunk and Chan connected, the Philippines went ahead 54-49 before heavy rains in Taipei caused an erratic signal before the satellite link which had trouble at the Taipei end was restored.
A see-saw battle ensued before the first half ended at 33-33 but a furious run by the Filipinos between the second and third quarters opened up a 61-51 lead with just under 9 minutes remaining.
When the signal was restored Smart Gilas was ahead 70-62 on two free throws by Douthit with time down to 5:15.
Douthit was fouled with 4:45 left and he sank one of his two free throws to move the Philippines to a seven point lead, 71-64 but Iran clawed back to come to within 2 at 71-69 before a huge triple by Norwood eased the pressure on the Philippines 74-69
with 47 seconds to play.
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