Smart Gilas Pilipinas used a strong finishing kick to repeat over Sangmoo of Korea, 98-78, yesterday and stay on track for a possible fifth place finish in the 20th FIBA-Asia Champions Cup at the Britama Arena in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Cagayan de Oro pride JR Cawaling keyed the Philippines’ 4th period breakaway by dishing off three spectacular assists – the first, a clever bounce pass to the left side that found a cutting Casio for a lay-up off the window, the second a wrap-around pass to Mac Baracael for another deuce, and a third to CJ Giles for a back rim-bending dunk to hike the lead to 78-65.

Cawaling punctuated his heroics with a three from the left corner pocket to keep the three-point mad Koreans at bay. Sangmoo, unable to carve space inside the lane due to the presence of the elongated Giles who swatted away four shots, turned to the court of last resort – the three-point range – for succor. Except that they shot a dismal 13-30.

JR Cawaling doesn’t always dominate the box score and he always finds ways to help. That is why he starts for this team as Rajko Toroman knows and sees his potential.

“I think it was one of our best games here, the players were enthusiastic even though we’re coming off a loss to Qatar,” said Toroman.

With Greg Slaughter starting out for Smart Gilas over CJ Giles, Sangmu fired on all cylinders and built a 13-4 lead as the Nationals suffered from a lethargic start.

But when Giles was sent in, Smart Gilas began to live up to its name with Rey Guevarra, JVee Casio and Dylan Ababou combining forces to wipe out the gap.

Guevarra scored seven straight points, kicking it off with a three on the corner and finishing the flair with a putback over two towering Koreans for a 29-27 Smart Gilas advantage.

Ababou and Casio then rained three-pointers on the floor, opening up a double-digit advantage that the Koreans never hurdled to the finish.

The Nationals thus forged an interesting duel with Satria Muda of host Indonesia, which steamrolled Young Cagers of India, at 5 p.m. today (RP time) in a battle for fifth place.

Gu Young Park and Jung Won Han canned two consecutive three-pointers at the start of the fourth to put Koreans at their closest, 65-76.

But JR Cawaling’s nifty feeds, underlined by an alley-hoop Giles slammed to the rim shifted the momentum back to the Philippines.

Victory became imminent when Cawaling and Jazul drained two triples from way out and Giles stuffed a two-handed jam inside four minutes.

Toroman pulled out the Smart Gilas import with two minutes to play, giving more playing time for the 6-foot-10 Slaughter, who celebrated his 21st birthday yesterday.

SMART GILAS – 98 – Giles 16, Casio 14, Ababou 11, Baracael 10, Jazul 10, Guevarra 9, Ramos 8, Barocca 7, Cawaling 5, Tiu 3, Ballesteros 3, Slaughter 2.

SANGMOO – 78 – B. Park 24, Han 14, No 12, Yang 5, Chung 5, Kim 4, Joo 4, Chun 3, Kim 0, S. Park 0, SW. Park 0.

Quarters: 17-21, 48-38, 71-59, 98-78

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