WUHAN, China (26th FIBA Asia Championship): A blistering final five minutes resurrected Korea from almost death and took the East Asia powerhouse to a 70-68 win against a declining Philippines in the bronze medal play-off on Sunday.
Naturalised forward Moon Taejong nee Jarod Stevenson, who otherwise had a subdued game, reeled in his only three-pointer for game with 0:47 left on the clock and moments came up with a block on rival center Marcus Douthit to steer Korea to their ninth bronze medal finish overall.
“This is what they brought me for. To make a contribution when it matters,” Moon told this website.
Cho Sungmin scored 12, including two blisterting three-pointers, out of his team-high 20 and Oh Sekeun accounted for 7 apart from Moon’s pivotal three-pointer as Korea outscored Philippines 20-11 in the final five minutes to emerge the winners.
Korea thus scored almost as much in the fourth quarter as much as they had over three quarters earlier.
“I think the team showed a lot of character,” said Korea coach Hur Jae.
“It is never easy to cut down such a deficit against a team that is all-round,” he said.
During this time Korea also lost two of their tallest players – Kim Joo Sung and Kim Jongkyu – making the Moon’s block on Douthit all the more significant. The former had scored 14 points – 6 of them in the fourth quarter – and pulled down 9 rebounds for his team being fouled out. Kim too was ejected but he had held fort with 5 rebounds and 7 points.
The game which began with Douthit’s layup being the only scoring moment on either side for the first five minutes, thus came alive with the Korean rally.
Douthit went on to lead the game in scoring and rebounds – 27 points and a colossal 22 rebounds.
Jim Alapag had 17 points, but only 3 in the fourth quarter.
“This is a very difficult time for our team,” said Philippines coach Rajko Toroman.
“We lost a game we should have won. Not only because we were in lead, but also because we played well,” he said.
Korea shot an awful 16% in their field goals in the first half before eventually improving it to 35% by the time the game ended.
“We were a little too stiff early in the game. We were telling ourselves to relax and then the shots would begin to go in,” Moon said.
“I think we put too much pressure on ourselves,” said Cho Sungmin.
“We came here to win the ticket to the Olympics,” said Moon.
“And I truly believe we had just one bad night against China (in the semifinals). But it’s alright. We’ll have another chances,” he added.
Play by play
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia