Fired-up Gilas clips Lebanon, faces Japan in Fiba Asia semis
CHANGSHA CITY, China – Gilas Pilipinas did not need the Olympic dream as a motivation on this one; Lebanon provided the Filipinos with one that drove them to play as hard as possible.
Piqued by the “easy, easy” remark of the opposing coach on the eve of their Fiba Asia Championship quarterfinal clash, the Filipinos drubbed the Lebanese, 82-70 late Thursday night, to advance to the Final Four at Changsha Social Work College Gym here.
READ: Lebanon coach relishing underdog tag vs Gilas
“For us, it was a sign of disrespect,” Andray Blatche, Gilas’ naturalized center, said after hitting most of the shots that hurt in the fourth quarter which helped seal the Filipinos clash with Japan on Friday for a place in the gold medal match.
Jason Castro scored 12 of the Filipinos’ first 17 points and got them going, finishing with 25 with Blatche contributing 24 points that went with 17 rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks in his most impressive individual effort yet.
“We don’t treat our opponents that way he (Lebanese coach Veselin Matic) referred to us,” Blatche said. “You know what, it was playing them that was ‘easy.’”
READ: Baldwin shrugs off Lebanon’s underdog claim vs Gilas
Terrence Romeo was the third man in twin digits for coach Tab Baldwin, finishing with 10 as he picked himself up from a slow start to hit a fallaway jumper inside the paint that made it 69-59 going into the final 4:08.
The Philippines guns for a title game berth against Japan, even as host China sealed a clash with defending champion Iran following a 104-58 demolition of India in their half of the quarterfinals.
READ: Fiba Asia 2015: China rips India, sets semis collision with Iran
It wasn’t really a smooth game as far as the Filipinos played, as the Lebanese, seeded fourth in Group F with only two wins to show in six games, tugged at the coattails of Gilas and had the game hanging in the balance until the waning minutes.
And then Blatche carried the Gilas offense that swung the tide in favor of the Filipinos.
Lebanon crept within 57-61 going into the final seven minutes before the 6-foot-11 former Brooklyn Net in the NBA hit six straight points that touched off the telling spurt which ushered the Filipinos to a 69-59 lead with just over four minutes left.
READ: Cone: Gilas best team in Fiba Asia 2015, China its biggest threat
The Philippines has not won this tournament since 1986 with a squad coached by Ron Jacobs. The Filipinos are now within two more wins to snapping that drought and going back to the Olympics for the first time in 43 years.
Calvin Abueva was one of those who felt slighted by the Matic quote, even running near the Lebanon bench after making a basket in the second quarter and saying “easy, easy” within hearing distance of the Lebanese coach.
“It was an insult,” Abueva told the Inquirer in Filipino while they were making their way back to the dug-out. “That statement of his alone was enough to make us play with all our hearts.”
Mohamad Ali Haidar paced the Lebanese with 18 points with Bassel Bawji shooting 17.
Gabe Norwood also did a good job on Lebanon’s Jay Youngblood, whom he held down to jst 12 markers in 38 minutes.
GILAS 82 – Castro 25, Blatche 24, Romeo 10, Pingris 8, Abueva 7, Norwood 5, De Ocampo 3, Ganuelas 0, Thoss 0, Hontiveros 0.
LEBANON 70 – Haidar 18, Bawji 17, Youngblood 12, Abd 8, Arakji 8, Saoud 7, Akl 0.
Quarters: 20-16, 37-32, 57-49, 82-70.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.