Defying pressure from the Chinese crowd, Gilas Pilipinas’ Paul Lee knocked all three clutch free throws in the final quarter to lift the Philippines over China 80-79 and steal the bronze medal for his team in FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan.
Gilas Pilipinas’ heart-stopping victory over China gave the Philippines the best ever finish in the tournament with a 5-1 record.
With around six seconds left in the game, LA Tenorio ran past Chinese defenders to make a timely throw to Lee who was beyond the arc. Lee faked out his two defenders to draw the foul and earn the chance to win the game from the line.
Zirui Wang could have sealed the win for China in the final minute, but he missed both shots from the free throw line.
The Philippines’ win stunned the Chinese team, who made an early 15-6 run and maintained a lead over Gilas nearly all game long.
Ranidel de Ocampo led Gilas Pilipinas with 18 points, while Japeth Aguilar chalked up 14 points. LA Tenorio added 12 points, including a crucial floater that tied the game at 75 with just a minute left in the final period. Gilas center Marcus Douthit dominated the board with 22 rebounds.
But Lee’s heroic stint at the charity stripe stood above the rest, and overshadowed his failed game-winner attempts back home for Rain or Shine Elasto Painters at the PBA Governors’ Cup.
Gilas coach Chot Reyes said Lee “proved he belongs in the national pool.”
The multi-titled coach added that the recently concluded FIBA Asia Cup gave the Philippine team a necessary boost on its way to the FIBA World Cup in Spain.
“The best way to describe it is, it (Fiba Asia Cup) was a great learning/ unlearning experience because we learned a lot about the new guys,” Reyes said in a report, noting that Gilas have become more adjusted to the FIBA rules.