MANILA, Philippines - Smart Gilas Pilipinas rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter but still fell short as it absorbed a heartbreaking 80-81 loss to host Lebanon yesterday in their semifinal duel in the 2010 FIBA-Asia Stankovic Cup in Beirut.
Fil-Am Marcio Lassiter exploded with a game-high 25 points, including an impressive seven-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc, while JV Casio and team captain Chris Tiu fired four and two treys to finish with 17 and 16 points, respectively.
The troika’s superb shooting underscored the Nationals’ awesome clip from the three-point range as they made 15 of their 31 attempts to keep them in the thick of things.
But home court decisions somehow affected the outcome of the match, breaking the hearts of the Filipinos who hoped for a big win.
Smart Gilas trailed 65-75 with six minutes left when booming triples by Lassiter, Baracael and Chris Tiu ignited a rally that closed the gap to 80-81 with 8.1 seconds to go.
Lebanese living legend Fadi El-Khatib, who finished with a game-high 25 points, split his charities for the one-point cushion.
The Filipinos had one more chance to snatch the win but JV Casio was triple-teamed and was forced to pass off to Lassiter.
Lassiter was hammered by a Lebanese player while going for the basket, but the referees didn’t call a foul, explaining that time had already expired before the contact.
Despite the loss, Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman lauded his boys for playing with a lot of heart.
“We played the best game since I became coach of the Smart Gilas,” said Toroman, who took over the job late 2008.
“The game was great. Lebanon played good, the fighting spirit of the players was there, which I didn’t see in a long time,” he added.
The loss sent Smart Gilas in a duel for third place with Qatar, a team oozing with naturalized Africans, today.
The Lebanese will take on the Japanese, who stunned the Qatari, 78-76, in an overtime thriller, for the crown.
Joey Villar, Philippine Star