TAIPEI, JULY 4, 2007
(STAR) Rony Fahed fired a triple with no time left as Lebanon came from behind to nip SMC-Team Pilipinas, 65-62, yesterday for its second straight victory in the 29th Jones Cup international basketball tournament at the Sinjhuang Stadium in Taipei County here last night.

Dondon Hontiveros misfired what seemed to be an ill-advised shot with still five seconds remaining in the contest with the count tied at 62, enabling the Lebanese one last stab at the basket, which Fahed completed with an off-balanced bank shot as time expired.

As the Lebanese whooped it up in their frontcourt, the Filipinos made their exit shaking their heads in disbelief after blowing what had appeared to be a won game on a sputtering finish marked by three flubbed offensives.

That included another Hontiveros miss from the three-point range in the closing minute which paved the way for Omar El Turk’s three-pointer that moved Lebanon to within, 61-62, after trailing by as many as 10 points in the third period.

It was a sorry loss for Team RP, which shocked fancied defending champion Athletes in Action of the US, 72-67, Monday only to be stunned by a gutsy Lebanese side, which played catch-up majority of the way.

The Filipinos actually self-destructed in the last two-and-a-half minutes and failed to score after Hontiveros had given the Nationals a 62-56 advantage.

Two free throws by Fadi El Khatib and a triple by El Turk put the Lebanese to within a point, 62-61, exactly a minute to go. After Khatib blocked an undergoal stab by Asi Taulava, he lost the ball to the sideline giving San Miguel-Team Pilipinas a chance to pad on the slim lead.

But Mark Caguioa, one of the heroes in the victory against defending champion Athletes in Action of USA, committed a dribbling violation and turned the ball over to Lebanon.

In the ensuing play, Gabe Norwood sent Basem Bala to the stripe with the Lebanese missing the rear end of his charities for a 62-all count, 17 seconds to go.

Instead of working out the go-ahead play, however, Hontiveros opted to heave a harried quartercourt shot with still about five seconds to go and missed, paving the way for Fahed’s heroics.

“It was a very interesting win. The Philippines is a very good team because it won against the Americans,” said Serbian Georges Ketzi, head coach of the Lebanon squad which tied Korea at the top of the standings following a 71-65 victory over Jordan.

“It’s a revenge win for us and a good preparation for the team en route to the Olympic qualifer in Japan,” Ketzi added.

“We haven’t been together for most part of the year. The coach is new. I just want to come in and try to contribute to my team. Our main goal is to be 100 percent when we hit Japan,” said Lebanese ace Joe Vogel.

San Miguel-Team Pilipinas took the half, 37-31 with new recruit James Yap scoring seven points in his short stint. The Filipinos opened the third period with a four-point swing courtesy of Gabe Norwood for a 41-31 advantage.

However, the Filipinos were assessed five quick fouls and entered penalty with still over five minutes to go. As a result,the Lebanese threatened 47-44,1:26 to go.

But Vogel was assessed a technical foul after pushing off Taulava and that led to a five-point swing by the Filipinos easing the pressure a bit, 52-44 at the end of the third.

Norwood opened the final period with a slam dunk as San Miguel-Team Pilipinas re-established a ten-point bubble, 54-44, 8:09 to go. But Fahed scored five points including a twiple in a 9-0 burst by Lebanon whihclosed in, 54-53, 5:11 remaining.

Athletes in Action and Kazakhstan bouned back from stinging opening day losses by routing separate rivals. The Americans, who drew double digit scoring from six players, sent Qatar reeling to its second straight setback, 106-68. The Kazakhs likewise handed Japan its second loss, 96-61.

Brian Asbury paced Athletes in Action with 17 points and Todd Hendley had 15. Cliff Hammonds and Alex Ruoff chipped in 11 apiece while Tyler Wilkerson and Reed Rawlings had 10 points each.

Anton Ponomarev led the Kazakhs with 27 points while Alexandr Tyutyunik had 18.

The Philippines is expected to encounter little resitance from Japan in today’s 3:30 pm encounter. The Japanese have reportedly sent a collegiate team. The RP-Japan match will be shown over ABC Channel 5 at 7 pm tonight followed by the Chinese-Taipei-Jordan game at 10 pm.

San Miguel-Team Pilipinas takes on a tough Korean squad tomorrow in preparation for their meeting with Jordan and Rizal in the weekend.

Reyes said he is wary about Jordan which pulled off a 63-61 squeaker of a win over Kazakhstan on opening day.

“That is bad news for us. In my mind, Kazakhstan should be a tougher team because we lost twice to them last year and in the Champions Cup.But with Jordan winning over Kazakhstan, presents a different scenario,” said Reyes.

Rashiem Wright scored 25 points in 33 minutes while Zaid Alkhas added 12 in that surprise win over the Kazakhs.

San Miguel-Pilipinas faces Jordan on Friday and Iran on Saturday and these are the games that matter most to Reyes as both teams are entered in the same bracket as the Filipinos and powerhouse China in the Tukoshima joust.

Iran got clobbered by Lebanon,80-71 but Reyes feels the Iranis ay be hiding their cards. “Tingin ko may itinatago ang mga iyan,” he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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