CHINA, September 26, 2003 (STAR) By Joaquin Henson  - The Philippines yesterday broke into the win column at Jordan’s expense to escape the cellar in Group D of the 22th Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) championships at the Heilongjian University gym in Harbin, China.

Despite the victory, coach Aric del Rosario’s charges failed to advance to the eight-team quarterfinals and dropped to the consolation pool with a 1-2 record. The Philippines earlier lost to Japan, 66-64, and Qatar, 77-69.

Japan and Qatar made it to the quarterfinals while the Philippines and Jordan missed the cut in Group D.

Team manager Danny Francisco told The STAR the Filipinos vented their frustrations on Jordan and won, 83-67. Former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) pro Ricky Calimag scored 17 points to pace the attack. Celino Cruz chipped in 13, Richie Melencio 13 and Marc Pingris 11.

Late addition Romar Menor hit six points and held Jordan’s top gunner Zaid Al Khas to two in the second period as the Philippines breezed to the lopsided win. The Filipinos erected a 22-point bulge in the third period on Melencio’s triple.

The Philippines outshot Jordan from two-point distance, 52% to 38%, buried more triples, 5-4, grabbed more rebounds, 34-26, dished off more assists, 12-6, had more steals, 9-5 and committed less turnovers, 12-22.

Zaid led Jordan with 17 points. The 6-8 forward played two years as a starter at Gannon University, a Pennsylvania school in the US NCAA Division II. He averaged 17.5 points and 9.5 rebounds as a Gannon senior and led the varsity to a 23-5 record in 1999-2000. Zaid previously saw action as an import in the Spanish league.

Francisco lauded the team for its effort. "We have nothing to be ashamed of," said Francisco. "We almost beat Japan and if only Ranidel (de Ocampo), Irwin (Sotto) and Gary (David) played, we would’ve qualified for the quarterfinals. We weren’t expected to do well but we surprised a lot of experts."

The loss to Japan was a heartbreaker. Japan hired a Croatian coach Zeljko Pavlicevic and played exhibition games in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Spain to prepare for the ABC championships. Still, the Japanese nearly lost to the Philippines’ crippled lineup that brought in three late recruits, two from Talk ‘N’ Text’s reserve list.

The Philippines plays Group A doormat Hong Kong in the first of four consolation games this morning. If the Philippines sweeps its remaining contests, it will finish ninth. The country’s worst finish in the ABC’s 43-year history was 12th in Seoul in 1995 when coach Arlene Rodriguez piloted the national squad whose players included Patrick Fran, Rodney Santos and Siot Tangquincen.

Like the Philippines, Hong Kong lost its first two assignments in Harbin–bowing to Uzbekistan, 68-64, and Lebanon, 90-67. Busan Asian Games veterans Poon Chi Ho and Li Wai Lun shot 11 points apiece against the Uzbeks.

Meanwhile, Jean Henri Lhuillier of Cebuana Lhuillier, the chief backer of the Nationals, noted the team’s lack of necessary manpower to attain its goal of improving its last performance in the tournament.

"Our group is committed to supporting Philippine basketball and we are even looking beyond this year knowing that for us to succeed, it will take a serious commitment and long term planning to reach our goal, our experience in China again emphasized the need to have a common goal for local basketball officials," said Lhuillier.

Lhuillier also pointed out that the team had to do with the players who were made available and not with the players that the coaching staff had wanted to tap. "Against both Japan and Qatar, the team felt the need for big men and outside shooters, and we could have done better if the team had these kinds of players," added Lhuillier.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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