Tenorio tows Smart Gilas to Jones Cup title

LA Tenorio connected on a jumper off a ball screen from Marcus Douthit with only 19.9 ticks left in the game to push the Smart Gilas Pilipinas national team to a 76-75 victory over the USA, and capture the 34th Jones Cup title in Taipei.

The spitfire from the Alaska Aces scattered 11 of his game-high 20 points to lead the Nationals to an incredible 25-16 rally from a 51-59 deficit at the start of the payoff period.  Jeff Chan, who unloaded five triples, added 18 markers, while Douthit finished with 17.

The Philippines, with a 7-1 card, was declared the tournament champion after leading the team standings in the last playing day.  It is the fourth time in the 34 year-old tournament that the country won the Jones Cup.  The USA has the most Jones Cup crowns with 13.

From a slim 13-12 advantage at the start of the second quarter, the Americans stormed to a 34-20 lead until Chan drilled a triple to end the first half at 34-23, in favor of the USA.  In the third period, both squads stepped up on offense, but Gilas prevailed, 28-25, to come to within eight, 51-59, going into the last quarter.  Tenorio also spearheaded Gilas’ offense in the third with nine points.

Then it was another Tenorio show in the fourth canto.  He hit five straight points at the start of the period before Gabe Norwood forced a tie at 59-all with a three-ball.  A seesaw battle ensued with nine lead changes until the final count.  With still 2:14 remaining and Gilas up, 72-70, James Justice uncorked a triple from the top to grab the lead for the USA, 73-72.  Then Douthit and Jermaine Dearman exchanged baskets for a 75-74 USA edge, with time down to 19.9 seconds. 

Coach Chot Reyes designed a play during the time-out that ended in the able hands of Tenorio.  Douthit provided the screen for the diminutive guard to attack and connect with his off-the-dribble shot that found its mark.  The gutsy Filipinos were able to make the necessary defensive stop forcing the Americans to foul and send Chan to the stripe, with just 1.9 seconds left in the game.  As he bungled the first shot, Reyes instructed Chan to deliberately miss the second.  The ball went out of bounds with just 0.9 tick remaining but the Americans were still able to make a desperation heave at the basket that misfired, sending the Nationals and a good number of Filipino supporters into a frenzy.

The Philippines’ only loss this year was to Lebanon, 72-91.

Last year, an almost-all amateur Gilas squad took third place honors in this tournament, behind Iran and South Korea.  The only holdovers from the 2011 squad are Douthit and Mac Baracael, while the only pros were Asi Taulava and Dondon Hontiveros.  In the present roster, only Garvo Lanete and Matt Rosser are non-pros.

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