FIBA World Cup

Gilas Pilipinas plays catch-up as Japan becomes first Asian team to win in FIBA World Cup

Delfin Dioquino

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Gilas Pilipinas plays catch-up as Japan becomes first Asian team to win in FIBA World Cup

ELATED. Japan's Yuta Watanabe celebrates with teammates after their win over Finland in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.


Japan notches its first FIBA World Cup win in 17 years and zeroes in on the Paris Olympics berth reserved for the highest-placed Asian squad after stunning Finland

MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas’ uphill climb towards a prized Paris Games berth has only gotten steeper as Japan became the first Asian team to clinch a win in the FIBA World Cup.

Japan notched its first World Cup victory in 17 years and zeroed in on the Olympic spot reserved for the highest-placed Asian squad after a surprising 98-88 win over Finland in Group E in Okinawa on Sunday, August 27.

The Akatsuki also became the first Asian nation to beat a European counterpart since the 2006 edition, where China nosed out Slovenia and Lebanon tripped France.

Ranked the lowest in Group E at world No. 36, Japan leaned on steady performances from naturalized player Josh Hawkinson and Yuki Kawamura to upset Utah Jazz star Lauri Markkanen and the No. 24 Wolf Pack.

Hawkinson posted a monster double-double of 28 points and 19 rebounds, while Kawamura fired 25 points on 4-of-7 clip from three-point land with 9 assists.

Although Japan (1-1) is expected to miss the second round as it battles world No. 3 Australia for its final group stage match, it has the inside track for the Olympic seat as all the other five Asians teams remained winless.

The Philippines fell to 0-2 in Group A after a disheartening 80-70 loss to Angola, Lebanon got eliminated in Group H following back-to-back blowout losses, while China (B), Jordan (C), and Iran (G) tote identical 0-1 records.

For Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes, though, they should focus on things they have control over, particularly their last group stage game against Italy on Tuesday, August 29.

A sizable win over world No. 10 Azzurri will not only boost the Filipinos’ Olympic hopes but also put them in a position to advance to the second round.

“We hope Japan loses its last game and we win our last game, then it’s all tied,” said Reyes. “[I]n the end, it’s going to be dependent, I think, on the other games. It’s not going to be in our hands.”

“The only thing that’s in our control right now is the next game. We can’t worry about the other things that are going on.”

Both the Philippines and Italy are coming off defeats, with the Azzurri absorbing a stunning 87-82 loss to current Group A leader Dominican Republic.

China battles South Sudan, Jordan faces New Zealand, while Iran tangles with Ivory Coast in what could be winnable games on Monday, August 28. –

GAME SCHEDULE: FIBA World Cup 2023 finals

GAME SCHEDULE: FIBA World Cup 2023 finals

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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.