John Clemente’s game winner caps off epic PH comeback to reach FIBA 3×3 U18 Asian Finals

NU’s John Lloyd Clemente kept the Philippines’ hopes of repeating as Kings of the FIBA 3×3 U18 Asian Championships alive after nailing the game winner that capped off an epic comeback from 8 points down to pull the rug from under host Malaysia, 21-20, in the semifinals. 

The Philippine team composed of Clemente along with his NU teammate Rhayyan Amsali, John Martin Galinato of Chiang Kai Shek College and Kyle Christian Tan of Uno High School will face Qatar, the reigning world champion, in the Finals Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

Win or lose in the Finals, Philippines has earned another trip to the FIBA 3×3 U18 World Championships slated next year.

The Philippines’s finals hopes appeared bleak when Malaysia went off to a blistering 16-8 start. But the young Filipino ballers got their acts together in the last two minutes, outscoring the hosts, 13-4, that was punctuated by Clemente’s top of the key jumper.

anton altamirano + mark solano fiba 3x3

“I was telling them, ‘Walang susuko, laban hanggang sa huli!’ For those last 2 possessions ng Malaysia, I was just uttering a prayer and actually, I told God it’s all up to Him and the miracle win happened,” co-head coach Mark Solano told FOX Sports after that epic win. “Grabe talaga yung nangyari kanina.”

Solano’s prayer got answered when the Malaysians, who were leading 20-19, had two point-blank misses underneath the basket that led to Clemente’s game winner.

Solano, who handles the team alongside Anton Altamirano and team manager Xander Gubat, will be bracing for Qatar, the only team that beat them in the tournament. Qatar handed Philippines a 21-15 loss in the elimination round.

“For now, we’ll stick to our main strength of quickness and outside shooting. With Qatar’s heft, height and length, we have to really bring them outside and try our best to keep attacking the basket.  We hope to get fouls and put them into early penalty,” said Solano on their game plan in the Finals.

“We also intend to play more physical,” he added.

Qatar pummeled Japan, 21-8, in the other semis bracket.

Clemente and co. hopes to rule this tournament that was won by a Philippine team that featured Kobe Paras, Thirdy Ravena, Paolo Rivero and Arvin Tolentino in Bangkok, Thailand in 2013. – By Alder Almo

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo