MANILA, Philippines—With Gilas Pilipinas again playing at a truly high level, the Filipinos ran a beefy and tall Qatari squad to the ground like no team has done thus far in the 27th Fiba-Asia Championship Tuesday night.
Unforgiving defensively and sharp on the other end, the Filipinos broke away in the second quarter and never looked back to post an 80-70 victory that guaranteed their march into the knockout phase in front of a cheering throng at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
The Filipinos starved the Qataris to a paltry nine points in the second frame, opened up a 47-29 lead at the half, and stayed on top for good despite an injury to Marcus Douthit late in the third that forced coach Chot Reyes to use him sparingly the rest of the way.
Douthit took an accidental hit in his right knee from Khalid Abdi with 4:09 left in the third period and the Philippines leading, 57-34, leaving Reyes no other choice but to change his game plan and give Douthit precious minutes on the bench.
The Philippines ultimately dealt Qatar a first loss, tying its victim for second place in Group E and making today’s final playdate an interesting one since the Filipinos suddenly earned a new lease on life at the No. 1 ranking in the group.
All that’s left for the Philippines to clean up its preliminary round assignments is lightweight Hong Kong at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday before a quarterfinal foe and its ranking is determined.
Chinese-Taipei, which nipped Japan earlier, 79-76, will clash with the Qataris Wednesday and a loss coupled with an expected win by the Filipinos over Hong Kong would give all three sides 4-1 records.
The rankings will then be determined via a quotient system that could give the Philippines an advantage because of its one-sided win Tuesday night. The Filipinos lost to the Taiwanese by just five points last Saturday.
Douthit finished with 19 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in his most dominating effort thus far, with Japeth Aguilar, clearly the revelation for the Philippines here, shooting 14 highlighted by a couple of dazzling dunks that got the crowd up on its feet.
Jarvis Hayes had 17 and 11 boards and Efran Alii Saeed finished with 13 for Qatar.
The Philippines got the strong start that it wanted, zooming to a 15-6 lead only to settle for a 20-all score at the end of the first period after playing the last three minutes of the quarter with so much hesitation.
But the Filipinos held the Qataris to just nine points in the second and took that 47-29 lead at the intermission after getting 10 points from Douthit and nine from Jeff Chan, who hit his first three-point attempts that opened up the middle for the naturalized Philippine center.
GILAS PILIPINAS 80—Douthit 19, Aguilar 14, Chan 12, Tenorio 7, Alapag 5, David 5, De Ocampo 4, Norwood 3, Fonacier 2, Pingris 2, Fajardo 0.
QATAR 70—Hayes 17, Saeed 13, Abdi 9, Daoud 8, Musa 8, Elhadari 5, Mohamed 4, Saleem 2, Saad 0.
Quarters: 20-all, 47-29, 63-44, 80-70