Smart Gilas routes Lebanon; enters semis

DUBAI, UAE –  Smart Gilas Philippines made an empathic win over Hoops Lebanon, 86-69, on Wednesday (January 26) to enter the semifinal round of the 22nd Dubai International Basketball Championship-Emirates NBD Cup at the Al Ahli Club.

The Philippine team relentlessly attacked the inside lane and bombarded Lebanon with successive three-point shots to avenge its heartbreaking loss to Al Wahda Syria on Monday.

Hoops Lebanon had an early lead in the first quarter, 19-15, when 6’10” Smart Gilas center Marcus Douthit was temporarily sidelined after he suffered an accidental cut on his left eyebrow.

Douthit came back in the following quarter and scored his first two points with a slum dunk and inspired Smart Gilas to make a 12-0 run which put them ahead, 27-19, in the first three minutes of the second quarter.

Lebanese coach Facundo Disrachi immediately called for timeout and called on his players to regroup. They had their own 11-2 run after the timeout which put them back on the driver’s seat with a one point advantage, 29-30, 5:24 remaining in the second quarter.

Smart Gilas co-captains Cris Tiu and Mark Barroca, took charge in the remaining minutes of the second quarter to give them back the lead at the close of the first half, 38-37.

Finding their shooters’ range, three consecutive three-point shots from Tiu, JV Casio and Aldrech Ramos gave Smart Gilas a 15-point advantage, 58-43 with 5:30 remaining in the third quarter.

JV Casio, who was adjudged best point guard in last year’s tournament, rotated the ball well while skipper Mac Baracael again found his rhythm in the third quarter to put Smart Gilas ahead, 82-59, at the end of the third quarter. Both Casio and Baracael were cited best players of the game.

Cheered on by Filipino migrant workers who filled the gym to the rafters, Smart Gilas continued its dominance over Hoops Lebanon in the fourth quarter and erected an insurmountable 22-point lead, 84-62, entering the final two minutes of the game.

Four players of Smart Gilas scored in double digits – led by Baracael with 16 points; Douthit 13 points; Casio and Tiu who both scored 12 points. Crowd favourite Asi Taulava contributed nine points and provided much needed relief to American center Douthit, who is a candidate to become a naturalized Filipino citizen pending the signature of President Aquino.

Only two players from Lebanon scored in double digits. American Calvin Cage topscored with 24 points followed by another American import William Byrd with 15 points.

Smart Gilas, which is aiming its first Finals appearance in the Dubai tournament, will meet Al Wahda Syria in a semifinal match on Friday at 9pm (UAE time).

Al Wahda Syria trounced the UAE National team, 100-81, in an earlier quarter final game. Angel Tesorero with photos by Gabriel John Rimando

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