2012 FIBA-Asia U18 Men’s Tournament Roundup: Days 7-9

Kyle Suarez and the rest of Team Pilipinas had a tough time
navigating the interior against much bigger foes.

Due to the whirlwind weekend I had with another sport, I have been remiss in posting about this oh-so-important tournament for our young stars-to-be.

I’m both happy and sad about the developments in the last three days of the Ulanbaatar U18 competition, simply because of the heartbreak caused by losing two of our last three matches, but I was also moved by the resiliency of our young ‘uns despite these heartbreaking setbacks.

Last Thursday, when I found out that Taiwan had beaten the Iranians, I immediately felt troubled. This result meant that our boys would have to go on and battle the Koreans in the quarterfinals. This was something we were trying to avoid for the simple reason that the Korean team has all the conventional advantages of any favored basketball team like size, depth, shooting, and even speed. This is not to mention that Korea has perennially tormented out national squads since the 70s.

I knew we were in for a gauntlet, and, true to form, the Koreans proved to be a little too much to handle. I’m proud of the fact that our kids stuck to Korea for a whole half, but we just couldn’t catch up when they turned up the jets in the third quarter. Lee Jong-Hyun was just too strong down low, and Heo Ho-On, the guy who killed our U16 guys last year in Vietnam, reprised his role as the perfect foil to our speedy guards.

On the first day of the 5th-8th place games, I knew we were favored against Lebanon, but I also felt a little anxious. Again, Lebanon had the edge in size, and they had several potent scorers like Jimmy Salem and Wael Arakji. I was actually pleasantly surprised how this game turned out. Lebanon did stick for the better part of three quarters, but we were able to ward off any challenge in the last 12 or so minutes. It was amazing how the kids responded to the challenge.

In our last game, a rematch with the ever-dangerous Taiwanese squad, I knew our boys were hurting already. Jay Javelosa was nursing an injury, and pretty much everyone else was in his own unique state of battered and bruised. Still, they played on, and they all laid their hearts out on the hardwood. We lost his close game and ended up a rung lower than the Kiefer Ravena-led U18 team in 2010, but sixth place is nothing to scoff at. Considering the caliber of the competition, and our perpetual size disadvantage, getting this far is already worth a truckload of commendation.

Perhaps that may sound a tad too patronizing, and it may be of little consolation to these guys who fought with all their heart, but the truth is the players of the U18 Philippine Team defied expectations, played beyond themselves, and showed poise beyond their years. These guys are the future of Philippine Basketball, and the future looks good.

Here are the game recaps of the last three Team Pilipinas games (from Mikkel Bolante of InterAKTV.com):

Quarterfinals: Korea over Philippines, 90-77
The Energen Pilipinas national youth team bowed out of the FIBA Asia Under-18 Championships after falling to frequent tormentors South Korea, 90-77, in their quarterfinal round clash in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.

The South Koreans turned a six-point halftime lead into a 14-point advantage after a big third quarter, then blew the game wide open in the fourth, leading by as much as 19 points as they advanced to the semifinals of the tournament.

The Energen Pilipinas team that competed in the 2011 FIBA Asia Under-16 Championships in Nha Trang, Vietnam were also eliminated by the Koreans. Heo Hoon, who topscored with 22 points in the semifinal clash with the Philippines in the U-16 tilt last year, scored 15 points in this one.

The Filipinos fell behind early but kept things close in the first half. They trailed by just three, 22-19, at the end of the first quarter. In the second period, Energen Pilipinas came back to take the lead, the last time at 39-37 after Kris Porter scored with 2:35 remaining in the quarter.

But Korea responded with a 10-0 blast in the next two minutes, before Kyle Suarez nipped the run with a bucket, four seconds left in the half, to make it 47-41 in favor of the Koreans.

South Korea maintained the lead for most of the third quarter, but leading scorer Jonghyun Lee hit two free throws that sparked a 9-0 run that gave the Koreans a double-digit lead. They outscored the Filipinos 22-14 in the third quarter to lead by 14 points entering the final period.

The lead was still 14 with 5:24 remaining in the game. But Gibeom Cheon hit a three-pointer and Junyong Choi who had a dunk about a minute earlier, added another basket to push the lead up to 19 points, 85-66, with 4:49 left to play.

The Philippines got it back down to 14 after back-to-back baskets from co-captains Prince Rivero and J-Jay Alejandro, the latter a three-pointer. But Lee scored again to make it 16, 87-71, with 3:12 remaining and both teams went silent until the 54 second mark of the game, when Cheon hit a charity to make it 88-71 for South Korea.

Lee turned in a brilliant performance for the Koreans with 26 points and 18 rebounds while Choi added 17.

The Filipinos were led by Jerie Pingoy of FEU-Diliman with 19 points and Rey Nambatac, who finished with 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

Energen Pilipinas struggled to adjust to the calls of the referees and were whistled for 32 fouls that resulted in 37 free throws for Korea. The Filipinos had only 13 attempts from the free throw line.

The Philippines will play two more games to determine its classification in the tournament. It can finish as high as fifth place with a win over the loser of the Iran-Lebanon quarterfinal Saturday and another over the winner of the other 5th-8th place classification match between Saudi Arabia and Chinese Taipei.

Jay Javelosa struggled mightily against
Korea's Lee Jong-Hyun in the quarterfinals.

5th-8th Place: Philippines over Lebanon, 80-69
The Energen Pilipinas national youth team stayed in the hunt for fifth place after defeating Lebanon, 80-69, in their classification match in the FIBA Asia Under-18 Championships in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.

The Philippines will play Chinese Taipei, which demolished Saudi Arabia 77-38 in the other 5th to 8th place classification game earlier in the day, to determine the best team outside of the semifinals.

Energen Pilipinas defeated Chinese Taipei, 88-83, in the second group stage of the tournament.

Mario Bonleon of La Salle Greenhills scored 19 points for the Philippines. Rey Nambatac added 12 while co-captain J-Jay Alejandro finished with 10 points and six assists.

Big men G-Boy Babilonia and Prince Rivero also had solid contributions with Babilonia posting eight points and eight rebounds while Rivero had eight points and seven boards.

The Philippines led by a solitary point, 22-21, after the first quarter but made an 11-4 run in the second period to grab an eight-point lead. Co-captains Alejandro and Rivero scored all 11 points in the Filipinos’ run.

Lebanon came back in the second period, though, cutting the Philippines’ advantage down to just three, 41-38, at the half.

A big third quarter that saw the Filipinos outscoring the Lebanese by eight points, 20-12, proved key as Energen Pilipinas opened up an 11-point lead entering the final period.

In the fourth quarter, the Philippines had an answer for everything Lebanon threw at them, never letting the lead slip below seven.

Jimmy Salem, who led Lebanon with 18 points, got his team to within seven, 65-58, with 6:17 remaining in the game. But Jerie Pingoy scored a bucket and Bonleon added four straight points as the Philippines extended its lead to 13 points with just 4:42 to play in the game.

Energen Pilipinas will try to match the fifth-place finish of the Kiefer Ravena-led youth team in the 2010 edition of the Under-18 championships.

UE's Mark Olayon helped shore up the frontline
against the dangerous Lebanese.

For 5th Place: Taiwan over Philippines,
The Energen Pilipinas national youth team showed big heart in mounting a huge fourth quarter rally but fell just short, dropping their fifth-place game against Chinese Taipei, 89-85, in the classification round of the FIBA Asia Under-18 Championships in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.

The Philippines came back from 14 points down in the last two and a half minutes to come within two points, 87-85, with 13 seconds remaining but the Filipinos ran out of time as they failed to complete the comeback.

The Filipinos trailed 77-63 with 2:29 left on the clock, but Energen Pilipinas co-captain J-Jay Alejandro shot the team back into the game, scoring 14 points in a span of just two minutes as part of a quick 16-6 run for the Philippines.

The team trailed 83-80 with 34 seconds remaining after the run.

But Wu Chia-Chun scored on a crucial three-point play to make it 86-80. Jerie Pingoy answered with a quick bucket for the Filipinos and Lu Kuan-Hsuian split his charities to keep the lead at five.

Pingoy then hit all three attempts from the line after getting fouled to make it 87-85.

But that was as close as the Filipinos got as Lin Kuan-Chun iced the game with two more free throws.

The Philippines finish the tournament in sixth place, failing to match the fifth place finish of the Philippine team two years ago.

The Chinese reign supreme in Ulanbaatar, Mongolia.

The box scores:

August 24, 2012:
India over Indonesia, 67-53

Korea over Philippines, 90-77

China over Saudi Arabia, 76-33

Iran over Lebanon, 84-47

Syria over Bahrain, 80-70

Japan over Taiwan, 68-67

August 25, 2012:
Indonesia over Bahrain, 67-64

China over Japan, 103-80

Korea over Iran, 96-93

Philippines over Lebanon, 80-69

Syria over India, 86-76

Taiwan over Saudi Arabia, 77-38

August 26, 2012:
China over Korea, 93-91

Iran over Japan, 87-83

Lebanon over Saudi Arabia, 89-78

Taiwan over Philippines, 89-85

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1 Comment

Just to add something admirable about this year's Under 18 team, they were formed and been practicing for 2-3 months, maybe at most, 3 1/2 months.

They lacked financial support, and had no added training abroad, unlike the teams in the past.

I remember that during Keifer Ravena's time, they had training in the US and Adelaide. Last year's Under 16 also went to the US.

These guys of RP U 18 2012, they were given meager weekly allowance , and went to Araneta Ave. for training. They even endured the wrath of the flooding due to the moonsoon rain last August and was stranded overnight in the gym.