There will be no semifinals stint for Smart-Gilas Pilipinas in this year’s FIBA Asia Champions Cup. The Filipinos found no answer to Fadi El Khatib, who proved to be the scourge of the national team aspirants all game long.
El Khatib, an NBA veteran, scored 12 of his 24 points in the final period and carried Al Riyadi-Beirut to a 74-63 win and into the semis of this tournament at the Al Gharaffa Stadium in Doha, Qatar.
The Filipinos battled the Lebanese toe-to-toe for most of the way, but couldn’t stop this one man wrecking crew, who steered his team to its third straight semifinals stint in this tournament.
Al Riyadi finished third last year and fourth in 2008.
For Smart-Gilas, its best consolation right now is to match its previous fifth-place finish in Indonesia last year. The team is already out of the running for the semifinals and the medal race.
The Filipinos lost four of their five games so far with their lone victory coming off a buzzer-beater by import Milan Vucicevic that gave the Filipinos a 76-74 win.
Smart-Gilas plays Al Jalaa Syria Saturday at 4 p.m. (10 p.m. Manila time) for the battle for fifth to eighth places in the standings.
Rony Fahed finished with 15 points, built around four triples while former San Miguel Beer import Nate Johnson also added 15.
Al Riyadi will face defending champion Mahram-Iran in the semis Saturday.
Vucicevic played his most productive game for the Filipinos, scoring 22 points followed by Mark Barroca’s 15.
The semifinals cast in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup will be composed of four teams from the Middle East – Iran, Lebanon, Qatar and Jordan.
Since 1999, the FIBA Asia Champions Cup was dominated by Middle Eastern countries and this year will be no different.
Host Qatar’s Al Rayyan squad, the only unbeaten team just like Al Riyadi, crushed Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal, 97-59. Jordan’s Applied Science University stamped its class on Kazakhstan’s Astana Tigers, 74-59. - Rey Joble, GMANews.TV