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Post by Admin on Sun Jul 29, 2007 9:25 pm

TOKUSHIMA, Japan -- Jimmy Alapag and Kerby Raymundo provided the offensive boost while Kelly Williams gave the team muscle on defense as San Miguel-RP kept its Olympic hopes alive with a 79-74 victory over China Sunday in the 24th FIBA-Asia men's basketball championship at the Asty Tokushima gym here.

The shortest player on the national squad at 5-9, Alapag had 25 points to lead the Philippines, which beat China for the first time in 22 years.

The last time a Philipine team beat China was in the 1985 ABC when the country's coach was the legendary Ron Jacobs.

Mark Caguioa, who played terribly in the loss against Iran and was headed for a repeat performance three quarters into the game against China, knocked in huge baskets in the last minute, none bigger than a floater that gave the Philippines a 75-69 lead with 56 ticks to play.

After China strung together five straight points courtesy of Li Ke and Wang Yong, the spitfirish Barangay Ginebra guard then banked a shot after breaking a Chinese press to give the Philippines a 77-74 breather, 8.6 ticks remaining.

“We played 40 minutes of pure heart,” said national team head coach Chot Reyes after the match where they rested Danny Seigle, who suffered cramps in their 69-75 loss to Iran a day earlier.

Alapag typified that heart.

After keeping the Filipinos within striking distance in a first half that the Chinese nearly ripped wide open behind their hot three-point shooting, Alapag took the lead again when San Miguel-RP trailed, 44-57, late in the third period.

The 5-foot-8 playmaker had five points and quarterbacked the team to within a point at the end of the third. Jayjay Helterbrand spelled him at the start of the fourth and briefly gave the Philippines a 58-57 lead on a running jumper.

Raymundo then put on a show of offensive might, scoring four straight points midway through the fourth as RP-San Miguel took a 68-62 lead. And when China threatened to within a point, Alapag knocked in a triple and anchored a pressure defense that forced a Chinese turnover and set Caguioa up for a fastbreak layup that made it 73-67, 1:33 remaining.

“Jimmy is the prototypical Filipino basketball player,” said Reyes. “Short, but skilled, athletic and he plays with a lot of heart. He is our leader out there.”

China had one more chance to tie the game after Caguioa's basket with eight seconds left, but Williams, who fought like a tiger on the defensive end and off the offensive glass, came up with a steal that sealed the match.

The Philippines plays Jordan at 6 p.m. (local time) Monday needing a win to advance to the quarterfinals.

The Chinese, who succumbed to their second loss in as many games, bowed out of the tournament and will be relegated to the consolation pool after the eliminations.

China is, however, already assured of a slot in next year’s Beijing Olympics as host.

The scores:

San Miguel-Team Pilipinas 79 -- Alapag 25, Caguioa 16, Raymundo 12, Williams 11, Hontiveros 7, Taulava 4, Helterbrand 4, Pennisi 0, Norwood 0.

China 75 -- Yi 14, B. Wang 14, Li 13, Bian 10, Zhang 9, Chen 6, Yang 3, Han 3, Y. Wang 2.

Quarterscores: 19-25, 38-49, 56-57, 79-74

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