Gilas five repeats over Japan
Against an enemy that simply refused to die, a Gilas Pilipinas crew that drew a lot of energy from its faithful throng continued to plod along in the Fiba World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers on Sunday night.
Bouncing back from a flat start and surviving a sputtering finish that had a huge hometown crowd at Mall of Asia Arena sitting on pins and needles in the dying minutes, the gritty Filipinos outlasted Japan, 89-84, to fortify their hold of second place in Group B.
After having what seemed like a disagreement with coach Chot Reyes in the second quarter, Andray Blatche let it all hang out in the second half, joining hands with Calvin Abueva in hitting clutch baskets that kept the game Japanese at bay.
Team Philippines thus bounced back from a 68-84 loss to Australia in Melbourne on Thursday and upped its record to 3-1 after sweeping Japan in the double-round first phase.
The Japanese slumped to a fourth straight defeat and have all but been eliminated.
“I have to be honest, if this game was played in Tokyo, it would have been a different outcome,” said Reyes after the hard-earned win which saw the Filipinos nearly blow a 15-point second-quarter lead as Japan came within 86-84 with a minute left.
Jayson Castro, out of the Australia game because of a sprained ankle, delivered the telling blow with 10.6 seconds left, and Blatche hauled down the game’s last rebound before letting out a primal yell that was drowned by the collective roar of the crowd that showed its appreciation the entire night.
“We really got the lift we needed from the crowd,” Reyes said.
Blatche finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds, with Troy Rosario coming back from an injury to contribute 14.
Kiefer Ravena had 13 points and five assists, playing heads-up all night at the point with Castro still not 100 percent.
“We played good, but in order to beat the Philippines, you have to play very good,” Japan coach Julio Lamas said.
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