Barea explodes as Puerto Rico rallies to oust Gilas Pilipinas

By Nelson Beltran, originally published on Sepember 3, 2014 on

SEVILLE, Spain - FIBA Americas runner-up Puerto Rico came from behind to frustrate Gilas Pilipinas, 77-73, in another sparkling moment that flickered out in the end for the Filipinos in the penultimate day of the FIBA World Cup group play here Wednesday night.

The Nationals got off to a rousing start and set the pace most of the way only to crumble down on crucial errors and on Jose Barea's 10-point explosion in the last four minutes of play.

With four losses, including three heartbreakers, Gilas Pilipinas moved out of the fight for the 16-team knockout stage to be played in Madrid and Barcelona.

The Nationals, who had little expectation of advancing to the Round of 16 in the first place, seek to avoid a winless stint in their first World Cup in 36 years as they play Senegal at 2 p.m. Thursday.

"In the second half, we're right there but we kept turning the ball over and couldn't make the shots in the end," rued Gilas coach Chot Reyes.

"We have the skills to play at this level but we don't have the experience to win," Reyes also said moments after the loss as frustrating and disappointing as their defeats at the hands of Croatia and Argentina.

Gilas Pilipinas was still ahead at 70-67 before Barea, an eight-year NBA veteran now with the Minnesota Timberwolves, completely took over the game, sending the Filipinos down on their nears with eight straight points to cap a breathtaking 30-point performance.

Sweet-shooting center Ricky Sanchez and steady wingman David Huertas contributed 13 points for the Puerto Ricans who bucked the absence of skipper Carlos Arroyo and two other injury-stricken players in nailing a first win in the tourney.

Puerto Rico, not finishing below fourth in the last three FIBA Americas, stretched its domination of the Philippines which it has also beat in two previous meetings.

The Filipinos bested the Puerto Ricans only once in five matches - an 82-80 nail-biter pulled off in the 1960 Olympics.

Barea, a prolific guard with an NBA championship ring won with the Dallas Mavericks, had a huge hand as they kept their mastery of the Filipinos.

"First of all, I'd like to commend Gilas. They're a great team. They have small guards who can make shots like me," said Barea humbly.

The truth was that LA Tenorio, Jimmy Alapag and Jayson Castro held their own against Barea only in the first half.

The 30-year-old Mayaguez, Puerto Rico native sizzled with 14 points in the first half, added six in the third period before scoring 10 of their last 12 points.

For Puerto Rican coach Paco Olmos, the big key was allowing Andray Blatche to get his points while clamping down on the Gilas gunners.

The Puerto Ricans dealt the Filipinos decisive beating on three-point shooting with an 11-of-26 clip as against Gilas' 6-of-28.

Gilas was limited to two treys in the last 27 minutes of play, including the last one Blatche made following a loose ball recovery giving the Nationals their last taste of the lead at 70-67.

The Nationals faded away from there.

In his best showing so far in the tourney, Tenorio sparked a swashbuckling start by Gilas as the Filipinos took the first quarter at 25-13 and led by 14 twice early in the second period before settling for a 44-39 halftime lead.

Holding the Puerto Ricans scoreless in a 10-minute stretch in the first half, the Filipinos came through with an 18-to-nothing run to post their first of 14-point margins at 27-13.

But crucial errors and lapses by Gilas towards the end of the second quarter allowed Puerto Rico to cut its deficit to a more manageable level at the turn.

Tenorio shone bright in the first two quarters, battling Barea toe-to-toe with a 5-of-5 from the field for 13 points. The ace Puerto Rican playmaker had 14.

The Scores:

PUERTO RICO (77) - Barea 30, Sanchez 13, Huertas 13, Rivera 5, Galindo 5, Diaz 4, Franklin 2, Clemente 2, Balkman 2.

GILAS PILIPINAS (73) - Blatche 23, Tenorio 18, Lee 10, Alapag 6, Norwood 6, Castro 4, De Ocampo 2, Pingris w, Aguilar 0, Chan 0.

Quarters: 25-13, 44-39, 61-57, 77-73.