Gilas shakes off Japan to start World Cup qualifiers campaign
With Gilas Pilipinas still groping for form, coach Chot Reyes went to his old reliable Jayson Castro as the Philippines held off Japan, 77-71, to start its campaign in the Asian qualifiers of the 2019 Fiba World Cup Friday at Komazawa Olympic Park General Sports Gymnasium in Tokyo.
Castro provided some semblance of stability for the Philippine side which struggled to get its bearing on the offensive end and lost grip of an early 14-point lead.
The veteran guard fired 20 points, six assists, and seven rebounds, including five of the last seven points for Gilas, none bigger than a trey with 1:14 remaining that took the air out of the home team.
With the defense clicking, Gilas jumpedto a 16-4 start which ballooned to a 24-10 advantage early in the second period.
But Philippines was hobbled by shooting woes and allowed its 37-28 halftime lead go down the drain with 12-0 blast from the the Japanese, who took a 40-37 edge midway in the third quarter.
Gilas, though, just had enough in the gas tank as Andray Blatche eventually found his mark and paired with Castro in the end game. The naturalized center went for 13 markers, 12 boards, five dimes, three steals, and three blocks.
Castro also went 3-of-5 from three, halting the Philippines’ dry spell from downtown after missing its first eight attempts.
Gabe Norwood added 10 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, while Matthew Wright had 12 markers on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting from the charity stripe.
Reyes also drew huge contributions from substitutes June Mar Fajardo and Roger Pogoy. The four-time PBA MVP pumped six points and three rebounds but was a plus-eight on his time on the floor, while the reigning Rookie of the Year got two huge defensive stops in the final minute to diffuse Japan’s late rally to go with his five-point output.
Gilas Pilipinas will now fly home to face Chinese Taipei on Monday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Makoto Hiejima was sensational for the Akatsuki Five as he paced his side with 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists.
Naturalized player Ira Brown chimed in 10 markers and 15 boards for Japan, while Daiki Tanaka also had 10 points on a 3-of-4 sniping from threes in the loss.
PHILIPPINES 77 – Castro William 20, Blatche 13, Wright 12, Norwood 10, Fajardo 6, Aguilar 5, Abueva 5, Pogoy 5, Ravena 1, Alas 0, Rosario 0.
JAPAN 71 – Hiejima 20, Brown 10, Tanaka 10, Togashi 8, Baba 7, Harimoto 7, Shinoyama 4, J. Takeuchi 3, Ota 2, Furukawa 0, Uto 0.
Quarters: 18-10, 37-28, 59-55, 77-71.
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