MANILA, Philippines – For the second straight game, Gilas Pilipinas led by double digits early against arch nemesis South Korea.
But also just like in the first encounter of their scheduled two-game friendlies, the Filipinos could not stymie a strong South Korean surge in the third quarter and fell short in their endgame rally to go down in defeat anew, 106-102, on Saturday, June 18 at the Anyang Gymnasium in Gyeonggi-Do.
First-time Gilas member Rhenz Abando and Dwight Ramos got the Philippines humming early, putting the Philippines on top at the break, 53-47.
That all changed in the second half as the host team limited the Philippines to just 21 third-quarter points while scoring 35 to snatch the lead from the visitors, 82-74.
Ramos erupted for 31 points as the Gilas Pilipinas stalwart also collected 8 rebounds and 3 assists.
Abando, who impressed in both games, added 19 points, while RJ Abarrientos knocked in 17 points, 15 from three-point range.
Just when the Filipinos seemed on the brink of having the fight taken out of them, they bounced back to cut the deficit to just a single possession twice with less than five minutes left in the fourth canto.
Both instances, naturalized Korean Ra Guna bailed out South Korea, first with a three-point play and next with a close-range basket.
Down by still three with two minutes to go, Gilas coach Nenad Vucinic once again turned to Abando, who completed a four-point play to give Gilas Pilipinas its last taste of the lead, 100-99.
However, Heo Ung, a recent Korean Basketball League (KBL) Mythical Five awardee and the son of the legendary Hur Jae, quickly responded with 5 straight points to to give his squad a four-point cushion and diffuse any hopes of the Filipinos to snatch a win on Korean home soil.
Ramos’ monster poster dunk with 15 seconds remaining, which cut the deficit to two, was all for naught as veteran power forward Kang Sangjae converted two free throws after for the final score.
Heo paced Korea with 21 points, while Ra Guna – the Korean name of former PBA import Ricardo Ratliffe – finished with a monster double-double of 27 points and 18 rebounds.
Along with Abando, Ramos had a hot start as they conspired to give Gilas a 10-point lead in the first quarter, 14-4.
Timely triples from Abarrientos and key baskets by Carl Tamayo enabled the Filipinos to thwart every Korean rally to end the half in the driver’s seat, 53-47.
In their first encounter last Friday, Gilas Pilpinas also succumbed to South Korea by 4 points, 96-92.
Gilas Pilipinas’ two friendly games versus Korea were part of the team’s preparation for the next FIBA World Cup qualifying window.
The Philippines will go up against New Zealand in Auckland on June 30 and versus India in Manila on July 3. – Rappler.com