Korea denied Powerade-Team Pilipinas a decent exit in the 25th FIBA-Asia men’s basketball championship as it hacked out a heartbreaking 82-80 win Sunday in Tianjin, China.

The Nationals lost grip of a nine-point fourth quarter lead and then watched Donggeun Yang score on a reverse lay up as time was running down, allowing Korea to take a two-point lead in the gripping battle for seventh place on the final day of the tournament.

Yang’s basket broke a tight 80-all contest with 1.7 seconds left, giving RP one final shot at a basket.

But James Yap’s long three-pointer at the buzzer failed to hit its mark, sparking a wild celebration over at the Korean bench as the Nationals walked off wearing long faces.

The tragic ending easily brought back memories of a similar aching loss another RP squad suffered at the hands of Korea during the semifinals of the 2002 Busan Asian Games when a Korean assassin by the name of Lee Sang Min drained a back-breaking three-pointer at the buzzer to deny the Nationals a place in the championship round, 63-62.

While little may be at stake in this loss, the feeling was just as excruciating.

The Nationals, a 69-56 loser to the Sokors in the preliminaries, wrapped up their campaign with a 4-5 (win-loss) card, losing their last three games to Jordan, Qatar and Korea and finishing eighth and last among the teams that made the quarterfinals.

While it slightly improved the ninth place finish of their 2007 predecessor, the Nationals still fell short of the seventh place finish achieved by the 1991 RP team that competed in the Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) Championship, the highest placing the Philippines had accomplished in the last 18 years of the tournament.

The Nationals were actually on the verge of matching that feat as they led 73-64 on a completed three-pointer by Cyrus Baguio with 6:33 left in the game.

But behind Sekeun Oh and Joo Sung Kim, the Koreans battled their way back and outscored the Nationals, 12-2, in a four-minute stretch to grab back the upperhand at 76-75.

Two free throws by Baguio gave RP a two-point lead, before Oh tied it at 80 with a follow up off a miss by Kim with 31 seconds left.

The Nationals then bungled three straight shots in the next play, including what appeared to be an easy basket underneath by Sonny Thoss, opening the door for Korea’s dagger of a basket.

Cyrus Baguio led the Nationals with 17 points while Thoss (15), Kerby Raymundo (14) and Asi Taulava (9) combined for 38 points as RP dominated the Koreans inside the paint, 52-40.

Oh torched the Nationals for 31 points and grabbed 10 rebounds before leaving the game in the final 18 seconds following a collision with Yap underneath the Philippine basket.

Willie Miller missed the game for the second straight time (groin injury), even as JayJay Helterbrand continued to miss from the floor, hitting just 1-of-6 to finish with two points.

The scores:

Korea 82 – Oh 31, Kim 15, Kang 10, Lee 9, Yang 9, Yang D. 6, Lee D.J 2.

Philippines 80 – Baguio 17, Thoss 15, Raymundo 14, Taulava 9, Dillinger 9, Santos 6, Norwood 5, Yap 3, Helterbrand 2.

Quarterscores: 26-19; 43-42; 62-62; 82-80.

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