LA Tenorio was the smallest man on court when Philippines’ Smart Gilas battled the US team during the final day of Jones Cup 2012 competition. And it was the most important game for Smart Gilas on the tournament yet, with a 6-1 record, wherein they are hoping to secure the gold medal by upsetting the Americans to avoid a tie three-way tie at 6-2. And yet, the smallest man made the biggest shots when they mattered most.
LA Tenorio helped Smart Gilas to crawl their way back into the game after being behind for most part of the game. At one point, the lead was as high as 15 points. However, the Philippine Smart Gilas team kept banging on every opportunity to get back.
It wasn’t easy though since James Justice’s hot hand kept pouring in the shots from outside the arc to fend off any comeback attempt late in the third quarter and early in the fourth. After LA Tenorio scored five to kick off the fourth quarter, then followed by Gabe Norwood’s own, the Philippine team’s goal to tie or even lead the Americans was now within reach.
A few heroic shots after (mostly from Tenorio), thanks to the high pick set by center Marcus Douthit, Smart Gilas finally snagged the lead. The lead was short-lived, though, as the Americans were quick to follow it up with a shot of their own, thanks to James Justice again.
Crucial defensive plays came at the dying seconds of the final two minutes and at the opposing offensive thrust, Jeff Chan was fouled and forced to go to the free throw line. At this point, the Smart Gilas Philippine team was up by just one. Chan had to convert two of the most important free throws of the game yet. When he missed the first, Coach Chot Reyes instructed him to miss the second shot with only a few seconds left in the game. Filipino fans at the stadium had to hold their breath as the US team attempt to take a game-winning shot with roughly 2 seconds left in the game following the sideline inbound. When the ball hit the rim but failed to go in, the members of the Smart Gilas team jumped at the center of the court as fans also jumped in jubilation from the stands.
This was the first time in 14 years that the Philippine team won a gold medal in the William Jones Cup tournament. And the fans, as well as the team, couldn’t have been more proud of this one as no one expected them to win it all (not especially against a US team)!
You can watch the final 3 minutes of the game here:
Congrats Smart Gilas Team 2012! Thank you for making the Filipinos proud!