MANILA, Philippines – Batang Gilas finally tasted victory at the FIBA Under-17 World Cup.
The Philiippine basketball youth team denied a second half comeback by Egypt to win by the slimmest of margins, 70-69, in the classification phase at Santa Fe, Argentina, Sunday, July 8.
It looked like the game was all but over after 7-foot-1 star Kai Sotto sank two free throws off a penalty that gave the also-ran Batang Gilas a 70-66 lead.
But bench player Mazen Ibrahim ran across the court with less than 5 seconds left and nailed the pull-up trey to inch within one, 69-70.
Batang Gilas scoring pillar Gerry Abadiano was then fouled off the inbound with 0.4 seconds remaining. After missing his first free throw, he intentionally missed the second one, causing a full-court Egypt airball as Batang Gilas at last collected its first win.
Sotto tallied a monster double-double of 28 points and 17 rebounds with 3 blocks for the young Filipinos, who blew a 20-point lead in the second quarter, 39-19.
The Philippines had bowed out of contention after losing all of its games by an average margin of 26.5 points in the group stage and bowing to Canada by 40 points in the Round of 16. (READ: Elite Canada side eliminates Batang Gilas)
Batang Gilas faces New Zealand next on Monday, July 9, in a battle for 13th place. Egypt falls to a match with China in the battle for 15th.
The United States and France arranged a championship showdown after disposing of separate semifinal foes.
France tripped Puerto Rico, 78-73, while the US routed Canada, 120-71, in the final 4.
Abadiano was his usual reliable self with 15 points on a 6-of-14 (43%) shooting while team captain Forthsky Padrigao and De La Salle-Zobel anchor Raven Cortez each chipped in 10. Carl Tamayo did not suit up.
Aly Abdelrahman Khalifa fueled Egypt’s comeback bid with 17 points and 8 boards. Youssef Osama Elmadawy added a 12-point, 10-board double-double.
The Nationals held a 39-19 advantage in the second period, their biggest of the tournament. However, that all but vaporized after they conceded a 14-24 3rd quarter to the rallying Egyptians, who had a lot of chances in the 4th – trailing by just a point in several instances – but the Filipinos managed to hold on to their slim lead.
A loss to New Zealand means Batang Gilas would settle for 14th place, still the Philippines’ best finish in the Under-17 category.
The Philippines settled for 15th in 2014 with a team composed of Gilas cadet members like Matt Nieto and Paul Desiderio.
Philippines (70) – Sotto 28, Abadiano 15, Padrigao 10, Cortez 10, Calimag 5, Chiu 2, Fortea 0, Guadana 0, Pascual 0, Andrada 0, Lazaro 0.
Egypt (69) – Khalifa 17, Elmadawy 12, Morsy 11, Ibrahim 7, Noureldin 7, Hassan 7, Mahmoud 3, Mohamed 3, Lehitta 2, Helmy 0, Saed 0, Hanafi 0.
Quarter scores: 17-8, 41-26, 55-50, 70-69