By Mark Giongco, PDI Sports
Veteran Dondon Hontiveros went on a shooting spree to lift Smart Gilas Pilipinas over powerhouse ASU Jordan, 76-74, Wednesday in the 22nd FIBA Asia Champions Cup at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.
Hontiveros, who’s fittingly celebrated his 34th birthday last night, knocked down 18 of his 23 points from downtown as the Nationals went on to claim the top spot in Group A with a 4-0 mark and will face Syria in the quarterfinals on Friday.
“They have good players, good import. But our players showed heart in this game,” said coach Rajko Toroman.
JV Casio made up for his poor playmaking in the first three quarters with clutch baskets in the waning seconds, including a floater that gave the Nationals a 70-66 cushion.
Marcio Lassiter iced the game with a pair of free-throws that set the final count.
Hontiveros converted a three-point play with under three minutes left that gave Smart Gilas the lead for good, 66-63.
Gilas went on an 8-1 run to open up the fourth period but Jordan, led by its towering import Jameel Watkins, quickly retaliated to regain the lead, 58-55.
The Nationals were visibly bothered by the imposing size advantage enjoyed by Jordan as the usually eye-pleasing ball movement of Smart Gilas went stagnant and tentative.
Naturalized Filipino Marcus Douthit was limited to 14 points due to early foul trouble.
Watkins led Jordan with 25 points while explosive guard Osama Daghles chipped in with 17.