Gilas pulls off comeback win over Qatar in closed-door match

Delfin Dioquino

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Gilas pulls off comeback win over Qatar in closed-door match
The Philippine men's basketball team unleashes a third-quarter storm to rally past Qatar in the FIBA World Cup qualifier

MANILA, Philippines – The typically raucous Araneta Coliseum turned into a quiet, almost-empty arena on Monday, September 17.

And it took Gilas Pilipinas quite some time to get used to the unusual environment before bucking off a lethargic first en route to a 92-81 comeback win over Qatar in a closed-door match and cap off the fourth window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers on a high note.

The Philippines unleashed a third-quarter storm on the way to a decisive victory to regain the third spot in Group F behind a 5-3 record. 

Japeth Aguilar, who returned to national team duties off a one-game suspension from FIBA, provided immediate impact with 16 points and 9 rebounds for Gilas.

Alex Cabagnot chalked up 16 points 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals as the Filipinos, who are coming off a 73-81 loss to Iran last September 13, returned on the winning track.

Replacing Christian Standhardinger as the Filipinos’ naturalized player, Stanley Pringle chipped in 13 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists while Beau Belga made his presence felt with 11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks.

It was a weird sight for an event as big as the Qualifiers with the 22,000-seater venue catering to only 220 people and the only noises that could be heard were the voice of the barker and the chatter among players and the coaching staff. 

With no home crowd to cheer them on, the Nationals trailed by as much as 17 points, 20-37, in the first half no thanks to a paltry 1-of-15 clip from three-point range and the Qataris’ impressive 7-of-13 shooting from long range. 

But the second half was a completely different story for Gilas.

The Filipinos, who headed into the third quarter down 39-52, unloaded a 20-6 bomb – capped by four straight Aguilar points – to turn the tides and take a 59-58 lead. 

Gilas outscored the visitors, 28-8, in the third quarter to head into the payoff period with a 67-64 advantage – a lead that stood until the final buzzer and swelled to as large as 17 points. 

“It felt really weird na naglalaro ka sa sarili mong bansa (that you’re playing in your country) or in your home stadium, playing another country, and there’s nobody there cheering you,” Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao bared. 

“But after a while, you get used to it.” 

Mohd Yousuf Mohammed finished with 26 points, 7 rebounds to pace Qatar, which resides at the bottom of Group F with a 2-6 card. 

Gilas returns to action in November to face Kazakhstan at the start of the fifth window of the Qualifiers. 

The Scores

Philippines 92 – Aguilar 16, Cabagnot 16, Pringle 13, Belga 11, Lee 8, Wright 6, Lassiter 5, Sangalang 5, Erram 4, Thompson 3, Taulava 3, Norwood 2.

Qatar 81 – Mohammed MY 26, Al-Rayes 17, Ngombo 17, Khalid 10, Mohammed MH 4, Abdelbaset 3, Gueye 3, Abdelhaleem 1, Avdic 0, Lashin 0.

Quarters: 15-26, 39-52, 67-64, 92-81.

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.