Gilas exacts payback on China in FIBA Asia Cup 2017 opener
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippines exacted some payback for a heartbreaking defeat in the FIBA Asia Championship final two years ago when they overcame China, 96-87, to open the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup on Wednesday, August 9 in Beirut, Lebanon.
Terrence Romeo once again impressed with clutch shots late in the game, a solo 8-point run – on a a game-tying triple, a go-ahead two-pointer, and another ice-cold 3-pointer – that turned a 3-point deficit into a 5-point edge with under a minute left, pulling Gilas Pilipinas to safety after the team blew a 17-point lead.
Romeo, who was there to endure the 2015 heartbreak, fed off of his own emotions and finished with a game-high 26 points on 5-of-7 shooting from deep to go with 4 assists. He scored 8 of Gilas' last 12 points and also swiped a crucial steal after his run to keep the momentum going.
Big man Christian Standhardinger put up 15 points and pulled down 6 rebounds, while veteran guard Jayson Castro, who settled things down late, had 13 markers 7 assists.
Matthew Wright added 12 points, while Raymond Almazan and RR Pogoy contributed 9 markers apiece in the heated rematch. Almazan also announced his presence with a couple of emphatic dunks.
The game escalated quickly in the opening quarter when Calvin Abueva was tossed after being whistled for a disqualifying foul when he headbutted China's Li Gen. Abueva, who likewise played in Changsha in 2015, was on the floor for only 1.5 minutes and scored two points.
Romeo himself was also called for one of multiple unsportsmanlike fouls throughout the contest.
The Philippines managed the upset despite missing injured center June Mar Fajardo and without naturalized big man Andray Blatche. Despite the lack of size, Gilas still managed 9 blocked shots – 3 courtesy of veteran Gabe Norwood, 5 from Japeth Aguilar, and one from Pogoy.
Gilas, comprised of PBA vets and cadets, came out aggressive in their first meeting with China since the 2015 duel in Changsha and led by 16-4 early.
The Filipinos' defense and speed caused plenty of troubles for the Chinese, which allowed coach Chot Reyes' dribble drive offense to thrive. Gilas then led by as many as 17 points as they controlled the first half.
But China would not simply roll over and die. They stormed back in the third quarter –thanks to 7 triples – and cut the deficit to a single digit before ultimately tasting the lead for the first time, 83-82, midway in the fourth.
Veteran Castro then came in to settle down the Filipinos, paving the way for Romeo to hit the needed big shots to eke out the morale-boosting victory.
This is the Philippines' first win against China since the now-infamous bronze medal victory in the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup, where Paul Lee sank the 3 medal-winning free throws with no time remaining.
Gilas next faces Iraq on Friday, August 11 at 9 pm in the continuation of the group phase. – Rappler.com
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