RP cagers bow out, lose to Jordan

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — For the second straight time, the Philippine team died at the hands of the same executioner from Jordan.

Rasheim Wright came through with 21 points and big man Ayman Idais added 20 as the Jordanians bludgeoned Powerade-Team Pilipinas, 81-70, to oust the Nationals in the running for the 25th FIBA-Asia men’s championship.

The Nationals gave the Jordanians a big scare after taking a 24-22 lead in the second period, and rallying back from a big 15-point third quarter deficit to close within 63-68 with 6:07 left in the knockout quarterfinal game.

But the Jordanians, honed by years of playing together as one, weathered the best the Nationals could offer and finished off their opponents behind a 9-2 run for a 65-77 lead.

The win sent Jordan to its first ever semifinals stint in the FIBA-Asia against defending champion Iran, a 75-65 winner over Qatar in the other quarterfinal match, while ending the RP team’s hope of advancing deeper into the tournament and a shot at one of coveted three berths up for grab in the 2010 World Basketball Championship.

In Tokushima, Japan two years ago, Jordan also eliminated the RP squad, 84-76, in their do-or-die game for a quarterfinal slot in the 2007 FIBA-Asia tournament.

“We said right from the start that the Jordan game would be tough for us. What we tried to do was to keep the game as close as possible and give us a chance to win the game,” said RP coach Yeng Guiao.

“But still, we’re looking at it on a positive way since the last time we played them, they beat us by 31 points,” Guiao added, referring to his team’s 90-59 blowout loss to the same team in the William Jones Cup tournament.

Mario Palma, the firebrand Portuguese coach of Jordan, did notice the marked improvement of the RP squad, which he said was much even better than the one the Jordanians played in Tokushima.

“It’s a better team. The Philippines played very well,” said Palma, his baritone voice booming inside the interview room at the post-game press conference. “This is a game that eliminates the team that losses. So it’s not a normal game because the players are more nervous. The pressure is big.”

Wright and Idais hardly showed any signs of pressure as each of them took over for Jordan every time the Nationals would threaten them.

Idais fouled out with still five minutes to go in the game, but did most of the damage in the first half when he scored 18 of his total points. His three-pointer and a fastbreak lay up highlighted a 15- 4 second quarter run as the Jordanians broke from a tight 27-27 deadlock to make it 45-31.

Wright had his moment at the height of the Nationals’ big fourth quarter comeback, scoring on a strong drive to the hoop that sparked the finishing kick ending the RP team’s hope.

Zaid Abbas grabbed 16 rebounds for Jordan, which pounded the Nationals off the boards, 49-38, and had a 16-point advantage inside the paint, 36-20.

“We still feel our team is improving, but we’re also disappointed because we thought this is our best chance to make it to the Top Four, probably the best way for us to make it,” said Guiao with a tinge of disappointment in his voice.

Gabe Norwood played his best game in the tournament, finishing with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field, to lead a Powerade-RP side that shot inconsistently from the floor (23-of-66).

By entering the quarterfinals, the Nationals are already assured of eighth spot, one notch higher than their predecessors’ finish in Tokushima, and can aspire for as high as fifth place with two more games coming up including one against Qatar Saturday.

A fifth place finish meanwhile, would surpass the seventh place achievement of the 1991 RP team that competed during the Asian Basketball Confederation Men’s Championship in Kobe, Japan.

All may not be lost as far as qualifying to the World Championship is concerned.

The possibility of a 10-team pool of wildcard entrants – two from each zone – disputing four slots available in Istanbul has loomed as an incentive for the teams that will finish fourth or fifth.

If approved by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), the No. 4 team after the crossover semifinals and the fifth placer could receive an invite to the wildcard matches.

The scores

Jordan (81) — Wright 21, Idais 20, Abbas Z.9, Soobzokov 9, Alkhas 6, Daghles 6, Alawadi 4, Al-Sous 4, Hadrab 2, Alnajjar 0, Almaaytah 0, Abbas I. 0.

Powerade-RP( 70) — Norwood 11, Dillinger 10, Miller 10, Pennisi 9, Baguio 9, Taulava 7, Yap 6, Raymundo 4, Thoss 2, Helterbrand 2, Aguilar 0, Santos 0.

Quarterscores: 22-17; 45-33; 67-52; 81-70.