MANILA, JULY 10, 2007
(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - TAIPEI – The SMC Philippine team leaned on a strong start to coast to another win here yesterday even as Jordan nipped Iran, 72-71, to all but wrap up the 29th William Jones Cup international basketball tournament.

The RP quintet waylaid Doha Asiad silver medalist Qatar, 88-80, to keep a share of third place going into the final play date of the nine-day, 10-nation tourney at the Hsinchuang Stadium.

Again displaying a fluid-motion game and near-impeccable shooting, the Nationals dominated the first half and held off repeated rallies by the Qataris in the final 20 minutes of play to boost their stock here to five wins against three defeats.

Noting that the Qataris went to work only in the second half, RP coach Chot Reyes was disappointed over his charges stand in the contest.

“If Jordan was a good loss, this was an ugly win. I think we came out with great effort and energy in the first half, then we relaxed thinking the game was over,” rued Reyes.

“When Qatar came back, they outscored us, 14-2, in the first five minutes of the third quarter. That’s unacceptable. We should know by now that we should maintain our level (of play) regardless of what our opponents do,” Reyes added.

Reyes felt he needed to be ejected from the game on technical fouls to fire up his troops. He took the exit with 32 seconds left in the third quarter and the RP team ahead by 13, 62-49.

“I saw in their body language at halftime, they’re relaxing, thinking the game was over. It’s good these things are happening now, we can still address these,” said Reyes.

The RP team closes out its stint here against Kazakhstan at 3:30 p.m. today with Reyes calling the contest a “set-up or foundation game since chances are we’re to play them in the quarterfinals if we make it past the eliminations in Tokushima.”

Mark Caguioa, though playing with a slight fever, scored 14 points to pace the Nationals, who also drew double-digit outputs from Kelly Williams, Dondon Hontiveros, Jimmy Alapag and Asi Taulava.

As in their game against the Taiwanese, the Nationals came out with their guns ablaze and established control early with a 28-10 bulge going into the second quarter.

The Filipinos opened the game with a 15-2 run and closed the first period with three straight triples from Caguioa and Hontiveros.

The RP squad fired six treys in the first half, the last from Mick Pennisi touching off a 10-to-nothing run that gave the Nationals their biggest lead at 47-26.

Jordan, meanwhile, assured itself of the championship on a stirring come-from-behind win over Iran.

“This win by Jordan installed them as a favorite in Group A in the FIBA-Asia championship. The ranking would be China, Jordan, the Philippines and Iran,” said Reyes.

“I think at this point, Jordan is playing at its highest level. They are very efficient, very tall, very smart, they move well, they know what to do,” added Reyes.

Reyes, however, stressed that the Nationals can beat Jordan and Iran.

“If there is something that we have learned in the Jones Cup, something we can bring back home and take with us to Japan, it is the notion that we can beat Jordan and Iran in our group,” said Reyes.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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