Basketball: RP Nokia U-16 bows to China, 66-85, in the semis

November 27, 2009 2:53 pm 

JOHOR BAHRU, Malaysia, Nov. 27 — Nokia U-16 Team Pilipinas’ magical run finally came to an end as it bowed to China, 66-85, in the semifinals of the Fiba Asia U-16 Men’s Championship Thursday night at the Bandaraya Stadium here.

After opening the game with a fiery scoring binge, the Nationals failed to sustain their momentum down the stretch, leading to the collapse which sent them to a rematch with Iran for third place.

Iran lost to Korea in the other semifinal encounter, 81-82, giving East Asian rivals Korea and China the chance to square for the title and represent the zone in the Fiba World U-17 Men’s Championship in Hamburg, Germany next year.

Battle for the bronze medal started at 6 p.m. Thursday with the Filipinos billed as the underdog for surrendering a 70-76 decision to the Iranians in the quarterfinals.

The last time the Philippines copped the bronze medal in a Fiba-Asia-organized youth event was during the 1992 ABC Youth Championship under Ato Badolato.

Its worst finish, however, was in 2004 when the Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP)-assembled junior squad finished a dismal 13th overall.

But when Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) formally spearheaded the formation of the youth team, Team Pilipinas finished seventh in the 2008 Fiba-Asia U-18 Men’s Championship in Tehran, Iran.

It is the first time for Fiba-Asia to organize a tournament for 16 years old and below.

“Qualifying in the semifinals is already a big achievement considering the toughness of this tournament,” said RP mentor Eric Altamirano, a member of the 1986 youth squad along with other big guns like Allan Caidic, Jerry Codinera and Alvin Patrimonio.

“But we still have to win one more important game Sunday. We may have lost to China tonight, but we gained a lot of respect from the Asian basketball community. It’s really a big achievement for us and for the country.”

The team’s chief sponsor, Tao Corporation president Jun Sy, also made an appearance and watched from the sidelines as the Filipinos give the Chinese a terrible time advancing to the next round.

It was China’s smallest winning margin in this 16-nation tournament after walloping Saudi Arabia by 80, 109-29; Jordan by 73, 117-44; and India by 74, 121-47, in the eliminations.

In the quarterfinals, it destroyed Chinese Taipei by 47, 108-61; Korea by 70, 121-51; and Japan by 50, 115-65, to post an average winning margin of 65 points in six games.

Facing a dominant team powered by two seven-footers and body of full-grown men, the Nationals unleashed their dizzying assault and raced to an early 17-7 lead, forcing China to reorganize and field its cold-blooded gunner, 6-foot-4 Wang Zirui, and forward, 6-foot-9 Zhai Xiaochuan, to create match-up problem with 5-foot-9 Keifer Ravena in the perimeter and 6-foot-3 Paolo Romero underneath.

With Wang and Zhai at the helm, China seized the lead at the end of the third quarter, 65-55, before waging a hot 15-2 scoring parade in the opening minutes of the fourth period to easily push the shorter Team Pilipinas to the brink of defeat, 67-47.

Dan Sara and Jeron Teng tried to put Team Pilipinas closer, 56-70, but the Chinese were so tall, so strong, and so skilled, leaving the Filipinos bleeding for their points entering the final four-minute mark.

Marksman Ju Mingxin submitted 18 points and seven rebounds while Zhai added 15 points and 14 rebounds for China, which committed five of its 19 turnovers in the first canto that gave Team Pilipinas a chance to make an early run.

Teng, meanwhile, paced Team Pilipinas with 18 points and five rebounds while Ravena knocked in 17 markers.

“You have to come up with a perfect game if you want to beat China,” Altamirano said. “They are tough, tall, intelligent and strong. But the boys refused to get intimidated. They still played China the way they did in our previous wins.”

“I was satisfied with what I saw, but we still have to push ourselves hard because we still have one more game against Iran. And it’s also as important as this China game.”

The scores:

China 85 — Ju 18, Zhai 15, Wang 13, Guo 11, Zhu 9, Xu 8, Luo 7, Shi 4, Bi 0, Gao 0, Ding 0, Wei 0.

Philippines 66 — Teng 18, Ravena 17, Sara 13, Ferrer 6, Tolomia 4, Pessumal 4, Alolino 2, Romero 2, Pate 0, Bantayan 0, Javillonar 0.

Quarterscores: 15-19, 36-32, 55-47, 85-66. (PNA) scs/LOR/pr

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