The reality of seeing title hopes in the FIBA Asia Cup slip away was already setting in on Gilas Pilipinas when the scoreboard of the Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Beirut, Lebanon suddenly put South Korea behind 73-0 with 3:55 left in the fourth quarter.
Filipino fans who watched the game in the Lebanese capital and millions back home resorted to using the scoreboard malfunction in good humor. Gilas thought it was no laughing matter, perhaps wishing that it had produced a favorable scoreline following a bitter evening of basketball.
The final score saw Gilas falling 118-86 to South Korea in the quarterfinals that ended shortly past 1 a.m. Manila time yesterday. It was a bitter pill to swallow for the team that seemed favored to compete for the crown following its sweep of Group B, only to be eliminated by the Philippines’ most bitter foe.
South Korea produced a comprehensive victory behind a precise offensive movement and accurate shooting that mimicked those sets made by the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.
And that left Gilas playing clueless especially in the second half when the Koreans broke the game wide open and turn what many predicted to be a dogfight into a rout.
The stats didn’t lie as well. Korea dished out 34 assists and made 16 three-pointers, living up to its age-long reputation as a team with a penchant for delivering crisp passes and hitting deadly shots from long range.
Terrence Romeo’s 22 points – all made in the second quarter highlighted by a series of three-point shots – may have delivered his best performance in a national team jersey. But that itself became a footnote as the great team play the Koreans proved to be far superior.
It was the fourth straight win by South Korea over the Philippines – adding to the lore of its struggles beating the same nation in the Asian basketball scene.
The Philippines got a reprieve in 2013, when coach Chot Reyes guided the team to a famous 86-79 victory over the Koreans in the semifinals of the FIBA Asia Championship at the Mall of Asia Arena, a result that sent the Philippines to the FIBA World Cup.
There were tears of joy from most of the people that watched memorable Aug. 10 evening, with Jayson Castro leading the charge with an inspiring second half performance. It was thought that the Curse of Korea has finally been vanquished that evening.
More than four years later, the Curse of South Korea is back to haunt Philippine basketball again, and it will linger for at least until the two nations meet again.
SOUTH KOREA 118 – Oh 22, Kim S. 21, Kim J. 15, Lee S. 14, Lee J. 11, Park 9, Choi 9, Yang 5, Jeon 3, Lim 0.
PHILIPPINES 86 – Romeo 22, Standhardinger 17, Pogoy 12, Castro 11, Aguilar 7, Wright 6, Jalalon 5, Abueva 2, Fajardo 2, Almazan 2, Norwood 0, Cruz 0.
Quarters: 26-18; 57-49; 86-62; 118-86.