MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas fended off a late Japan scare to start its FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers campaign on a high note with a 77-71 win at the Komazawa Olympic Park in Tokyo Friday, November 24.
The Filipinos led by 10 points midway the payoff period before Japan used a 9-2 run, highlighted by Yuki Togashi’s two triples, to make things interesting, 69-72.
But Jayson Castro-William, who paced Gilas with 20 points, knocked down a triple and Roger Pogoy scored off the break to give Pilipinas a comfortable 77-69 cushion with 27 seconds left in the game.
Castro-William also had 7 rebounds, 6 assists and a steal while Andray Blatche did not look rusty in his Gilas return after finishing with 13 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks.
Newcomer Matthew Wright made his presence felt with 12 markers while veteran Gabe Norwood chipped in 10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals.
Gilas took a 14-point lead early in the second quarter following Kiefer Ravena’s free throws, 24-10, before Japan trimmed the deficit to 5 points, 24-49, off a 14-5 run powered by Makoto Hiejima’s 7 points.
The Akatsuki Five opened the third quarter with a blistering 12-0 blitz, capped by a Togashi triple, to take the lead, 40-37, but Gilas quickly got back on its feet with its own 10-3 run, 53-46.
An Andray Blatche buzzer-beating triple gave Pilipinas a 59-55 advantage heading into the final period.
Makoto Hiejima paced the Japanese with 20 points and 5 rebounds but was quiet in the crucial stretches of the game. Ira Brown had 10 markers and 15 caroms for the home team.
Gilas will return home to face Chinese-Taipei on Monday, November 27, at the Araneta Coliseum.
Pilipinas (77): Castro 20, Blatche 13, Wright 12, Norwood 10, Fajardo 6, Abueva, Aguilar 5, Pogoy 5, Ravena 1, Alas 0, Rosario 0
Japan (71): Hiejima 20, Brown 10, Tanaka 10, Togashi 8, Baba 7, Harimoto 7, Shinoyama 4, Takeuchi 3, Ota 2
Quarter scores: 18-10, 37-28, 63-55, 77-71
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