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Gilas Cadets escape Thai threat in SEABA final preview

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By Ivan Saldajeno

BANGKOK--Thailand nearly caught Gilas Cadets in what would be their worst outing so far in the SEABA Stankovic Cup.

The Cadets survived the challenge of the host nation and walked away with a 66-65 squeaker in the last game of the preliminary round at Stadium 29 on Thursday night.

In a glimpse of what to expect in the championship game on Saturday at the said venue where both teams face off anew, Gilas Cadets found themselves trailing at some points of the match against the Thais and firing blanks from 22 feet most of the time.

The Cadets appeared to be heading to an anticipated rout of the Thais after going up, 21-10, late in the first half.

But Thailand slowly crawled back in the first half and eventually got the lead, 33-32, at halftime. They would slightly stretch their lead to four, 38-34, early in the third period.

The Cadets restored order later in the second half and retook the lead, although Thailand kept the game close and would just be within one, 48-49, after three period.

The Cadets missed their first 24 triple tries before Kevin Ferrer hit one with 9:03 left in the match that sparked a 7-0 run to rebuilt a nine-point cushion, 58-49, with 7:35 left in the game.

But the Thais went on an 11-0 run to reclaim the edge, 60-58, with 4:44 remaining.

Troy Rosario made two free throws to tie the game, 60-all, with 3:53 to play, while Chitchai Ananti, Patiphan Klahan, and Nakorn Jaisanuk could only convert splits from the line as Thailand held to a precarious three-point lead, 63-60, with 2:08 left.

Mike Tolomia then buried a booming triple with 1:15 left, while Ferrer connected the go-ahead basket from deep off a Mac Belo steal to give Gilas Cadets the lead, 66-63, with 1:02 to play.

Ananti still kept Thailand in the game as he scored with 47 seconds left to cut the lead to one, 66-65.

Ferrer failed to put the game away for the Cadets as his trey failed to go in, capping a 3-of-37 clip from beyond the arc for them. The Cadets only made 25-of-98 field goals overall for a measly 26 percent shooting.

But Raymar Jose stole the ball from Bandit Lakhan with the shotclock winding down for the Thais as Gilas Cadets appeared to have already won the game.

Ananti, however, quickly stole the Cadets' inbound pass with less than a second left and fired a Hail Mary shot from halfcourt. Ananti badly missed the heave as the Cadets finally escaped.

Rosario finished with 20 points, ten rebounds, one assist, one block, and one steal, while Belo added 18 points, seven rebounds, four blocks, and two steals for Gilas Cadets, who swept the eliminations with a 4-0 record.

Ferrer only ended up with seven markers, two boards, and one swat, but his clutch triple mattered the most for the Cadets.

Ananti tallied 14 points, ten rebounds, one assist, and two blocks for Thailand, which can still finish the unfinished business in the championship game.

Box Scores:

Philippines 66-Rosario 20, Belo 18, Tolomia 9, Ferrer 7, Jalalon 6, Vosotros 4, Pogoy 2, Escoto 0, Jose 0, Pessumal 0

Thailand 65-Ananti 14, Jaisanuk 12, Lakhan 10, C. Klahan 7, Lertmalaiporn 7, Chanthacorn 6, P. Klahan 5, Apiromvilaichai 2, Ghogar 2, Samerjai 0, Sekteera 0

Quarterscores: 21-12, 32-33, 49-48, 66-65

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno