For the moment, Gilas Pilipinas showed the fighting heart that has been the country’s mantra for years now.
But the Koreans – the country’s most bitter rival and nemesis – were there again, firing from all over and ready to spoil the party.
South Korea came in red-hot, moving the ball very well, finding the open man, and drilling shot after shot to crush a flat-footed Gilas Pilipinas side, 118-86, and denied the Group B winner a spot in the semifinals of the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon.
The Koreans meet the victor of the Lebanon-Iran matchup in the semifinals on Saturday, while the Filipinos, out of the podium for the first time since 2013, face the loser of that matchup.
Right from the tip off, the Koreans were already on fire, getting contributions from almost everyone thanks to their near-perfect execution on both ends of the floor, which led to an astounding 74 percent shooting in the first half.
The Koreans, who defeated Japan in a knockout match two nights ago to set up the quarterfinal date with the Philippines, entered the break with 18 assists, seven triples, and an eight-point lead, which would grow hugely and quickly at the resumption.
While the Koreans managed to sustain the fire, the Filipinos’ performance would turn rougher and rougher.
After a little run that trimmed a 16-point deficit to just a single digit late in the second period, the erstwhile-unbeaten Philippines came into the third a step slower again, being held to just 13 points while continuously firing blanks as the Koreans pulled away to put the game out of reach.
Oh Sekeun and Kim Sohyung led the assault for Korea with 22 and 21 points, respectively, and got solid supports from Kim Jongkyu and Lee Seounghyun who had 15 and 14 and four assists each.
Terrence Romeo put on a show during the second frame, drilling six 3-pointers in that quarter alone en route to 22 points. But the Korean defense adjusted smartly and denied the explosive scorer the ball as he went scoreless the rest of the way.
Hur Jae’s wards worked effectively for Korea with their variation of zone defense preventing the Filipinos some clean look while doing the damage in return.
Korea dished out 34 assists overall compared to just 14 for Filipinos. The East Asian team also tied their tournament-high 16 triples, but this time missing just five out of their 21 attempts.
Christian Standhardinger, returning from a shoulder injury, finished with 17 points for the Philippines but not even the return of June Mar Fajardo for the nationals could help as Gilas’ road to the Asian title came crashing down.
Lebanon and Iran’s quarterfinal match has yet to begin, as of press time.
KOREA 118 – Oh 22, Kim S H 21, Kim J K 15, Lee S H 14, Lee Ju H 11, Choi 9, Heo 9, Park 9, Yang 5, Jeon 3, Lim 0.
PHILIPPINES 86 – Romeo 22, Standhardinger 17, Pogoy 12, Castro 11, Aguilar 7, Wright 6, Jalalon 5, Abueva 2, Almazan 2, Fajardo 2, Cruz 0, Norwood 0.
Quarterscores: 26-18, 57-49, 86-62, 118-86.