PH notches win in Tokyo
Struggling big time in the second half on Friday night, Gilas Pilipinas went to its two most reliable guns when the chips were down to score a 77-71 decision of Japan in the first window of their Fiba Asia 2019 World Cup Qualifying series at Komazawa Olympic gym in Tokyo.
Jayson Castro and naturalized player Andray Blatche stepped up big and averted a collapse by the Filipinos, who bungled first half command with a lethargic third quarter and even trailed the under-rated Japanese twice before pulling this one out.
Castro, voted best point guard in Asia twice, hit five straight points inside the final 1:50 that extended a 70-66 lead to a safe margin as the Filipinos gathered some momentum heading into their second match in three days.
The Filipinos plane back home Saturday and will have very little time to cool their heels as they take on Chinese Taipei Monday night at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.
Blatche epitomized the Filipinos’ offensive struggles but still had the guts to take over at the crunch, hitting a big triple that opened up an eight-point lead halfway through the fourth before issuing two critical feeds the rest of the way.
Even with Blatche finishing with just three points after the first two quarters, Team PH still took the half comfortably and looked very fluid until several dry spells in the third allowed Japan to take a 40-37 lead.
Castro finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists, reprising his role as Gilas’ top go-to-guy, while the 6-foot-11 Blatche, who seemed to limp in the last four minutes, wound up with 13 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
The Philippine defense was also one of the biggest factors for the win, as it held the Japanese to an atrocious 28 percent clip in the first half before bottling up the enemy’s top guns when it needed to in the stretch.
Matthew Wright and Gabe Norwood also finished in twin digits for the Philippines with a combined 22, although the Filipinos would want to forget how they shot from afar in this one. Gilas missed its first eight attempts from that distance, before Castro drilled in two straight late in the second quarter.
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