Gilas Pilipinas nips Japan, faces China in Fiba Asia 2015 final
CHANGSHA CITY, China – That one final step Gilas Pilipinas needs to take to reach Rio de Janeiro would, in a manner of speaking, have to be over China’s Great Wall.
The Filipinos struggled more than 90 percent of the way on Friday night before showing Japan the door, 81-70, in their Fiba Asia Championship Final Four duel and sealing a gold-medal match with the rock-solid Chinese at Changsha Social Work College gym here.
Gilas broke away only in the final two minutes, surviving a tough challenge from the Japanese this time, to win a seventh straight game and barge into the title match for the second straight edition, after finishing second to Iran in 2013.
“We didn’t come here to play in the Finals; we’re here to win the gold (medal),” Gilas coach Tab Baldwin told reporters after the victory.
“We know there’s never a level playing field in China, I’ve experienced that before. But we willl come out and play our hardest to win that game.”
Dondon Hontiveros waxed hot from three-point range – easily his best game of the tournament – and helped Gilas immensely since Andray Blatche wasn’t at his sharpest and Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva seemed a bit jittery.
Ranidel de Ocampo also had some critical baskets in the fourth period, including a three-pointer with 7:29 left that kept the Japanese within arm’s length.
The championship match will be at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday and the Filipinos will be up against a Chinese team bannered by four 7-footers.
China demolished Iran in their half of the Final Four, scoring a 70-57 victory earlier with a performance that has made the Chinese the overwhelming favorites to regain the crown they last won in 2011 and punch the lone continental berth to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.