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MANILA, Philippines – The Gilas Pilipinas Boys’ Under-16 team continued its Cinderella run in the 2023 FIBA U16 Asian Championship, completing a thrilling 64-59 comeback against Japan in the quarterfinals on Friday, September 22 (Saturday, September 23, Manila time) in Doha, Qatar.
With the hard-earned victory, the Filipinos qualified for the FIBA U17 World Cup in Turkey in 2024 by virtue of a top four finish in the tournament, along with China, New Zealand, and Australia – which the Philippines will face in the semifinals.
After being held to a tournament-low 11 points in the Philippines’ 24-point thrashing of Korea on Friday, second-generation star Kieffer Alas rose to the occasion for Gilas Boys as he erupted for his new tournament-best 29 points, on top of 9 rebounds and 3 assists.
With the Philippines staring at a 10-point deficit at halftime, 25-35, Alas, the brother of PBA star Kevin, came alive in the third salvo and produced 14 of his 29 points to help the Filipinos overtake the Japanese heading into the fourth quarter, 46-45.
Alas was a man on a mission in the crucial third period as he shot an efficient 4-of-5 clip from the field, single-handedly outscoring the whole Japanese squad, 14-10.
It was a nip-and-tuck battle between both teams throughout the final frame and with Japan still trailing by a point, 59-60, with exactly two minutes to play, it was big man Bonn Daja who delivered the goods for the Philippines in the endgame with huge back-to-back baskets to settle the final score at 64-59.
Joaquin Ludovice, who sizzled for 25 points on a terrific 7-of-12 shooting from downtown against Korea, picked up where he left off and backstopped Alas with 11 markers built on three treys.
Kurt Velasquez also scored in double figures for Gilas Boys with 10, while Daja added 6 points.
On the other side, Shogo Takata topscored for Japan with 12 points, while Ginga Sembo and Kenichiro Benedict had 10 markers apiece.
The Gilas Boys, who will play in their sixth game in seven days, have less than 24 hours of rest as they collide with Australia on Saturday, September 24, at 12:30 am, Manila time.
Philippines 64 – Alas 29, Ludovice 11, Velasquez 10, Daja 6, Williams 4, Amos 4, Banal 0, Diao 0, Chua 0, Alegre 0, Morales 0, Gomez de Liaño 0.
Japan 59 – Takata 12, Sembo 10, Benedict 10, Murakami 8, Nakamura 8, Shiratani 5, Honda 4, Wakano 2, Shingo 0, Takahashi 0.
Quarters: 16-16, 25-35, 46-45, 64-59.