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Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin had no doubt that Dwight Ramos and SJ Belangel deserve all the praises moments after the Philippines pulled off an 81-78 escape act over South Korea in the Clark window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers, Wednesday night.
Reason being, both Ramos and Belangel remained calm and composed down the stretch, making the right plays even in the face of a pressure-laden situation.
Tied at 78 with 2.9 seconds left on the clock, Ramos, who was tasked to inbound the ball off a timeout, received directions from Baldwin to find Carl Tamayo at the middle for a high-percentage shot. However, Ra Gun-Ah of South Korea was quick to react, sealing off the Filipino big man and closing the door on Gilas' initial plan.
As how Baldwin recalled it, "It was multi-optional, but the primary option was to get Carl Tamayo under the basket with the ball from a direct entry pass from Dwight. But they switched Ra on to Carl, and Ange did not quite execute the way we wanted, so the middle of the lane wasn’t available."
Ramos had to adjust on the fly, and he had to make it quick with time winding down. So, he swung the ball to the nearest man who turned out to be the 5-foot-10 Belangel, one of the best shooters in the youth-laden squad.
“Dwight took the first available option, which was SJ, and they just made the play. Yes, he was an option, but just an entry option just to get the ball inbounds,” bared Baldwin.
“Dwight did the smart thing, because the worst thing was to get a five-second call and get Korea the ball and with the chance to win.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Belangel knocked down the game-winning triple, giving the Koreans, who used to send Filipinos crashing in dramatic fashion in the past, a dose of their own medicine while securing a FIBA Asia Cup berth for the Philippines.
"Credit goes to Dwight for making the smart play and SJ just making a play,” Baldwin said.
“It’s one of those that you see every now and then. Everybody enjoys it except the other team.”
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.
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