TAIPEI:  LIGHTNING  STRIKES  TWICE;  RP 5  AMBUSHED  BY  THE  JAPANESE

TAIPEI, JULY 5, 2007
(STAR) SMC-Team Pilipinas reeled from a second heartbreak of a loss barely 24 hours after the first.

Ambushed by the Lebanese at endgame Tuesday, the Nationals suffered the same fate at the hands of the Japanese in the third day of the 2007 William Jones Cup at the Hsinchuang Stadium Wednesday.

The Japanese fashioned out a shocking 86-84 come-from-behind win sealed with a final-second breakaway lay-up by heady guard Yusuke Okada off a steal by Takumi Ishizaki on Dondon Hontiveros.

It was another bitter defeat for the Nationals, who took control most of the way and led by 12 points twice in the first half only to sputter at the finish.

“We can’t execute, we can’t close out a game. That’s the story of our lives here,” said RP team coach Chot Reyes.

“From day one, natataranta at nawawala ang diskarte sa endgame ( they’re rattled, lost their focus at endgame). It’s my fault because I couldn’t give them good shots,” Reyes added.

The Nationals still had a chance to force overtime in the final second but Ishizaki deflected an alley-oop pass by Gabe Norwood to Kelly Williams.

The Japanese scored their first win in the tourney following a 77-90 shellacking by the hosts Monday and a 61-96 massacre by the Kazakhs Tuesday. The Nationals, who stunned the Athletes in Action of the United States, 72-67, on opening day, on the other hand, suffered a second loss after an equally numbing defeat to the Lebanese, 62-65, Tuesday.

It was practically the same story as in the RP-Lebanon contest with the Nationals blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead as they couldn’t hit a basket at the finish.

And they couldn’t plot a decent play, losing two possessions on passing errors in the final minute.

An errant pass by Hontiveros to Jayjay Helterbrand was turned by Okada into a precious twinner on a lay-up with time down to one second as the Japanese surged ahead at 86-84 after playing catch-up the entire last three quarters.

Earlier, firebrand Shoei Kikuchi, who scored a game-high 27 points, finished a transition play by the Japanese on a three-pointer to tie the count at 84-all with time down to 8.5 seconds.

Team Philippines sued for time but still couldn’t execute a play as it struggled against the Japanese’ efficient defense.

Reyes probably committed a tactical error in keeping Eric Menk and James Yap on the floor for long in the payoff period.

Renren Ritualo was fielded back only in the final second although the Talk n Text hotshot went 7-of-9 from the three-point area in the first half.

Earlier, Lebanon proved its three-point win over RP was no fluke as it walloped Kazakhstan, 90-77, for its third win in a row.

Qatar broke into the win-column with a 74-72 decision over Iran.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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