May 24, 2018, 6:02 pm
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‘Puso’ gone in just 2 quarters

AFTER scoring 22 points in the second quarter alone, Terrence Romeo was stopped cold in his tracks by the Korean defense as Gilas Pilipinas absorbed a humiliating 86-118 setback to South Korea Wednesday in their FIBA Asia Cup quarterfinals battle at the Nouhad Nawfal Stadium in Beirut, Lebanon.

Nobody among the Gilas players picked up the slack in the third and the Filipinos, after topping Group B with three straight wins and advancing outright to the quarterfinals, were relegated to a consolation battle with Lebanon, which took a 70-80 beating from former Asian champion Iran in the other quarterfinals match.

The much-vaunted Gilas pride, or “puso,” was on display only in the first two quarters, typified by Romeo who went 2-of-2 from two-point range and 6-of-8 from beyond the arc.

The Filipinos went into the third trailing 49-57 but had no answer when the Koreans opened a 70-53 lead with 6:25 left in third quarter after Ho Sekeun turned a Romeo turnover into an easy fastbreak basket. A three-pointer by Choi Jun Yong made it a 22-point spread 77-55 with 3:37 left in quarter.

Korea stretched its lead 26 points 85-69 on free throws by Ho late in the third period and this ballooned to 28 points as Gilas lost its composure and, much worse, its fighting spirit.

The Koreans showed surgical precision, sinking 16-of-21 for a 76.19 percent shooting clip and 66.67 percent overall, had 20 more assists 34-14, and dominated the boards 34-30, the return of June Mar Fajardo hardly helping Gilas.

Gilas paid dearly for opting to match the Koreans shot-for-shot instead of playing physical defense which had powered the team to big victories over China, Iraq and Qatar.

Gilas committed just four fouls in the first half, indicating the Filipinos were nowhere near the ferocious defense that had been their saving grace in past games.

The Koreans displayed savvy in their offensive attack, scoring easily on pick-and-rolls, pick-and-pops, and anything else that their coach, Hur Jae, drew up. When they started denying or trapping Romeo at every possession in the third, he failed to score again.

Reyes was mum after the defeat, the most lopsided yet absorbed by the Philippines in its storied rivalry with South Korea, and left Filipino cage fans ruing another defeat at the hands of an opponent that is not as athletic but nevertheless deadly.

After opening their campaign with a defeat to Lebanon in Pool A, the Koreans scored their fourth straight win and forged a semis battle with Iran.

As a consolation, the FIBA Asia Cup is not a qualifier for the FIBA World Cup or the Olympics. What matters is the home-and-away qualifier for the FIBA World Cup in 2019 that starts in November where Gilas is set to clash with Australia, Japan and Chinese-Taipei.
 
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