TAIPEI, TAIWAN, August 2, 2005 
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - The Taiwan press ignored the Philippines’ top scorer Asi Taulava in choosing the five best players to comprise the mythical first team at the end of the Jones Cup in Taipei last Sunday.

Picked were guard Terrance Johnson and forward Steffon Bradford of Passing Lane Sports, guard Saad Abdul Rahman Ali of Qatar, forward Pavel Ulyanko of Russia and center Tsun Wen Din of Taiwan.

If the choice for center came down to either Tsun or Taulava, there was no way the hometown boy wouldn’t get the nod. Tsun had the lock on the sympathy votes.

Tsun and Taulava battled nearly on even terms when Chinese-Taipei beat the Philippines, 82-76, last Saturday. Tsun compiled 28 points and 10 rebounds while Taulava collected 27 and 16.

But the real yardstick in comparing their performance was how they fared against Passing Lane which was unbeaten in the 10-team tournament. Taulava gave the Americans more than they could handle by scoring 23 points and nearly towed the Philippines to victory. Passing Lane was on top by only a point, 97-96, with 22 seconds left before Bradford scored to ease the pressure. Taulava, who buried two treys in the first half, missed a three-point shot at the buzzer as the Americans held on to win, 99-96.

Tsun, in contrast, shot 11 in Passing Lane’s 95-74 romp over the hosts and was hardly a factor in the contest.

Taulava averaged 16.8 points in nine games. He didn’t miss a single shot from the field in firing 29 to power the Philippines’ 107-69 massacre of India last Tuesday.

What broke the Philippines’ heart was the loss to Chinese-Taipei because a win would’ve guaranteed a second place finish.

As it turned out, the Philippines ended up third with a 6-3 record. Qatar and Russia also posted 6-3 records but both lost to the Philippines. Taiwan finished second at 7-2, its only losses inflicted by Qatar and Passing Lane.

Taulava played like a man on a mission throughout the grueling joust. He led the Philippines’ comeback from a 21-point deficit in the third period to threaten the Americans down the stretch. Thrice, the lead was down to a point in the final minute but Passing Lane wouldn’t be denied a clean slate.

If the center slot was conceded to Tsun in the mythical team because of hometown considerations, at least the Taiwan press could’ve named Jay-Jay Helterbrand or Dondon Hontiveros to the elite five.

Taulava, Helterbrand and Hontiveros were the only Filipinos who averaged in double figures. Helterbrand hit at a 12.4 clip while Hontiveros, 10.7.

Helterbrand or Hontiveros deserved the slot at guard more than Ali. The Philippines was the only team not represented in the mythical selection among the top five placers. In the Philippines’ 82-71 decision over Qatar, Helterbrand scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds while Ali tallied 10 points.

It was Helterbrand who hit a twisting layup to trim the gap to a point, 94-93, with 56.2 seconds left in the game against Passing Lane. Hontiveros led the charge with 19 points in the Philippines’ 91-78 win over Russia.

The Philippines’ losses to Australia, Chinese-Taipei and Passing Lane were close. Those games could’ve gone either way, meaning the Philippines was in the thick of things all the way until the final buzzer. The Filipinos fought like tigers. They won as courageously as they lost.

Taiwan would’ve finished at 6-3 like the Philippines if not for its 68-66 squeaker over Russia last July 27.

Website writer Chris Wang said Taiwan beat Russia "with a little help from the refs and (the) red-hot shooting of Chang Chih-feng and Yang Yu-min."

A Filipino witness to the highway robbery texted: "Garapalan dito. Taiwan beat Russia by two. They never entered penalty. Worse, Taiwan’s No. 7 was fouled in the closing seconds and as the ref was giving him the ball for his free throws, the table official said it should be No. 12, Taiwan’s best shooter, shooting. He was nowhere near the play when the foul was called."

The Philippines’ masterful conquest of Russia was described by coach Chot Reyes as the team’s best showing in the nine-day meet. The Filipinos were up by 19 at the half and never looked back. Hontiveros sparked the Philippines’ attack. Kelly Williams netted 12 points and hauled down six boards. Brandon Cablay and Romel Adducul scored 10 apiece.

Filipino cager Willie Miller played only two games in the tournament before flying back home with a dislocated right ankle. He had seven points, five rebounds and five assists in the Philippines’ first win at Qatar’s expense.

Cablay sat out the games against Australia and Japan because of a leg injury.

Five of Reyes’ players saw action in five games in five days at the Global Hoops Summit in Las Vegas then flew directly to Taipei for the Jones Cup. That meant Adducul, Helterbrand, Kerby Raymundo, Williams and Tony de la Cruz played 14 games in 16 days crossing the international dateline in the process. Hontiveros missed a game in Las Vegas so he played in 13 games in 16 days.

Last year, the much-maligned Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) sent the national team to the Jones Cup and the Cebuana Lhuillier selection finished eighth of nine entries, losing seven games by an average margin of 21.4 points. The only Philippine victim was a clumsy youth squad from Germany.

Dong Vergeire coached the BAP quintet whose players included Marc Pingris, Omanzie Rodriguez, Celino Cruz, Ricky Calimag, Dennis Madrid and Richie Melencio.

What if Danny Seigle, Eric Menk, Mark Caguioa, Nic Belasco and Mike Cortez were in Reyes’ lineup in this year’s Jones Cup? Remember that because the team was undermanned, Reyes had to call in amateur reinforcements Denok Miranda and Jondan Salvador as relievers. Yet, despite the depleted lineup, the Philippines took third and won six of nine games, losing three by an average margin of only four points.

With a full cast, the Philippines would’ve undoubtedly won the Jones Cup.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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