(Ninoy Aquino Stadium)
5 p.m. Dongguan vs Talk 'N Text
7 p.m. Jordan NT vs Smart Gilas-RP
Despite shooting blanks from the three-point range, the Philippine developmental team scored a 74-64 win over the Dongguan New Century Leopards on Thursday at the start of the 2010 Smart Philippine Invitational Challenge at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.
And Marcus Douthit, Smart Gilas Pilipinas' candidate for naturalization, is a big contributor in the RP team hopefuls' victory over the Chinese club team.
The 6-foot-10 Douthit showed his all-around game to finish with a game-high 26 points and nine rebounds in 33 minutes of action to make a strong pitch of becoming the team's naturalized player.
But the 30-year old veteran of numerous international leagues, who also provided stellar defense in the fourth quarter, wasn't alone in this one as Chris Tiu and Mac Baracael gave him support to help the Rajko Toroman-coached Gilas crew win its first game of this four-day international tournament.
"I really like the way Marcus played tonight," Toroman said. "He's smart, he has a good conditioning and if he continues to play like that then why not (take him as our naturalized prospect)."
The RP cagers are now one victory away from advancing to the finals as they play FIBA World Championship-bound Jordan on Friday. The Jordanians wasted a 16-point lead but held on to beat Barangay Ginebra, 84-81, in the curtain raiser.
Douthit wasted no time showing his athleticism and wide wingspan hitting 10 points in the first half as the Nationals led 18-5 early in the first period.
But Dongguan, which finished 11th in the recent Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) season, climbed back slowly behind American import Allen Ronald, who somehow resembled Air21 Express import Leroy Hickerson, Kevin Kruger and 6-foot-11 Zhang Khai.
A sluggish third period, which saw Smart Gilas shooting paltry from the field allowed the Leopards, who trailed 34-32, to grab the lead behind Ronald's outside shooting and several driving layups by his Chinese teammates.
Taiwanese native Hsin-an Chen, who was once signed by the Sacramento Kings for their preseason camp, drove to the basket for a 58-51 lead with 8:01 left in the game to put pressure on the Filipinos.
But Douthit later tied the game at 60-all scoring on a putback off a Tiu missed three-pointer with 5:17 remaining.
And with Dongguan struggling to score plus already in the penalty, Tiu, JV Casio and Chris Lutz hit all of the team's next eight points from the foul line before Casio hit a runner for a 70-60 lead with 1:55 left, thus securing the game.
"Even when we were struggling to score plus they got great American players, we kept on fighting so it was a very nice game and I'm surprised with that," Toroman said.
Douthit shot 11-of-18 from the field and made 4-of-7 from the foul line. Tiu finished with 10 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Dongguan, coached by former Australia national team mentor Brian Goorjian, needs to beat Talk 'N Text on Thursday to be able to keep its hopes of entering the finals on Sunday.
Smart Gilas-RP 74 – Douthit 26, Tiu 10, Aguilar 9, Lutz 8, Barroca 6, Baracael 6, Casio 5, Slaughter 2, Lassiter 2, Ababou 0.
Dongguan 64 – Kruger 16, Ronald 14, Zhang 10, Chang 8, Song 3, Liu 3, Sun 2, Li 2, Chen 2, Gu 2, Feng 2.
Quarter scores: 18-7; 34-32; 51-54; 74-64.