FOLLOWING their huge win over defending champion China in its 2017 FIBA Asia Cup debut on Wednesday night, Gilas Pilipinas now focuses its attention on Iraq today as it treks back to the court at the Nouhad Nawfai Gynasium in Beirut, Lebanon.
Set for 9 p.m. (Manila time), the Philippine national men’s basketball team is out to build on its 96-87 victory over China the other day and put itself in good position to top its group in the high-profile regional tournament and claim the outright quarterfinal ticket up for grabs in the group stage.
Against China, Gilas Pilipinas relied on a total team effort on both ends of the court and an explosion from GlobalPort Batang Pier star guard Terrence Romeo in the end to withstand a strong challenge from China to book its first win in this year’s edition of the Cup.
The team also held its own despite being reduced to 10 men with big man June Mar Fajardo nursing an injury and forward Calvin Abueva ejected early in the contest with a disqualifying foul after retaliating to the rough play of Chinese player Li Gen.
While they dictated the tempo for much of the opening half, leading by as many as 17 points in several occasions, Gilas found itself in a tough battle in the second half as the Chinese started to hit their long bombs.
China seized the lead from Gilas, 83-82, with 5:45 to go in the match and threatened to pull the rug from the Philippines.
But Mr. Romeo and the rest of Gilas would not allow China to do such as they held their composure down the stretch to withstand the onslaught.
GlobalPort star Romeo racked up eight straight points to overhaul a three-point China lead, 92-87, with 2:12 remaining in the clock.
It was a run by the Philippines that the Chinese would not recover from as Gilas went for the finish en route to notching its first win of the tournament.
Mr. Romeo led Gilas with 26 points, going five-of-seven from beyond the arc, to go along with four assists.
Christian Standhardinger had 15 points and six rebounds while Jayson William (Castro) had 13 points and seven assists.
Matthew Wright finished with 12 points and Raymond Almazan and RR Pogoy had nine points each.
Japeth Aguilar, who set the Gilas attack to a good start, anchored the team’s defense with five blocks and seven points.
Iraq, for its part, was also victorious in its tournament debut on Wednesday over Qatar, 75-66.
It used a strong third quarter to shake off the Qataris before holding on in the end for the win
Kevin Galloway led Iraq with 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals.
He was backstopped by Karrar Hamzah with 13 points and eight assists. Hassan Abdullah also had 13 points.
Gilas’ game today against Iraq will be shown live over TV5 and AksyonTV and livestreaming at www.sports5.ph/live. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo