GILAS Pilipinas has never had a start this hot and a whirlwind finish like this one.
The Filipinos imposed their will on Kazakhstan early and then blew their foes to smithereens in the fourth quarter for an 88-58 victory that put them in the Final Four of the 27th Fiba Asia Championship—and within another win back to the world basketball stage.
Gary David’s explosion finally came after a long wait and the others played so well that Marcus Douthit got the chance to cool his heels in the crucial win that shoved the Filipinos into a semifinal clash with either South Korea or Qatar.
Team Philippines found finishing foes tough in its first six games, blowing a 13-point fourth-quarter lead against Chinese Taipei, allowing Qatar to come back before winning by 10, and engaging lowly Hong Kong in a close match before scoring a scary win.
But not last night. Not in front of a virtual sea of humanity at Mall of Asia Arena against a tough foe that even the other continental powerhouses found hard to crack.
The win actually gave the Filipinos two chances to nail a berth to the World Championship in Spain next year. Even if they lose their Final Four match today, they still have a chance to cop third on Sunday against either Chinese Taipei or Iran.
The Philippines trailed just once, 2-3, before Jeff Chan hit back-to-back triples and Gabe Norwood shot four points for a 12-3 cushion the Filipinos never let go of.
And that was before David came off the bench. He gunned down three three-pointers in a row and led the Philippines to leads of as many as nine before finishing with 13 points in the first half that had the Filipinos sitting on a 51-40 lead.
“A shooter’s job is to shoot; sometimes they miss,” said Gilas coach Chot Reyes of David. “I spoke to him briefly in practice and we worked something out. That’s what he does, to put the ball in the hole.”
After playing practically a give-and-take third period, the Philippines stepped on the gas and left the Kazakhs in its wake, racing to leads of as many as 29 points behind David and almost everyone else that Reyes put into the fray.
0David finished with 22 points—the most by any Filipino in this 15-nation event—and three others tossed in twin digits with Jason Castro adding 13 and Japeth Aguilar 11, topped by a two-handed jam that gave Gilas an 82-53 lead and got the capacity crowd roaring as one.
Douthit finished with just five points plus 10 rebounds but he got his injured shin a much-needed breather.
Gabe Norwood was also superb. Apart from finishing with 10 points, he put the cuffs on Kazakhstan playmaker Jerri Johnson, whom he helped hold down to eight points and three assists.
GILAS PILIPINAS 88—David 22, Castro 13, Aguilar 11, Norwood 10, Chan 7, De ocampo 6, Pingris 6, Douthit 5, Tenorio 3, Fonacier 3, Alapag 2, Fajardo 0.
KAZAKHSTAN 58—Klimov 14, Johnson 8, Ponomarev 8, Yevstigneyev 6, Lapchenko 5, Murgalayev 5, Bondarovich 4, Zhigulin 3, Sultanov 3, Yargaliyev 2, Bazhkin 0.
Quarters: 32-15, 51-40, 67-49, 88-58