FIBA U16: Jay Alejandro leads Philippines past Japan
NHA TRANG, VIETNAM—Used sparingly for most of the tournament, Jay Alejandro put on an explosive show when the Energen Pilipinas Under-16 needed him most.
Alejandro pumped in a game-high 34 points as the Philippines stunned Japan, 83-72, Monday night to complete a two-round sweep of their elimination matches in the Fiba Asia U16 tournament at the Khanh Hoa Sports Center here.
The fifth straight victory gave the Philippines the No. 1 spot in Group F and a quarterfinal showdown today against Iraq, the West Asian champion that finished fourth (2-3) in Group E.
Gametime is at 7 tonight (8 p.m. Philippine time).
Alejandro, a standout guard from Mapua high school, finished with a notable 16-of-28 shooting clip while grabbing 10 rebounds on top of four assists and a steal.
National youth coach Olsen Racela said the team really reserved Alejandro for the big games.
“The plan was to conserve him,” said Racela. “It’s a long tournament, so we wanted him to have the energy until the end. He’s the leader of this team, we know he delivers in big games. It doesn’t surprise me, it doesn’t surprise the coaching staff and his teammates.”
Alejandro unloaded 19 points in the first half which the young Nationals took at 48-36 from a 24-28 deficit early in the second quarter.
“I really waited for this until the second round, so I just went all out,” the 16-year-old Alejandro said after the Philippines dealt Japan its first loss in five games. “They played poor defense, so I just kept driving and running.”
But credit also went to Rev Diputado and Hubert Cani, who shut down Japanese shooters Taisei Shirato and Yasunori Aoki to a combined five points.
“They’re good offensive players but they’re also very good defensive players,” Racela said of his two guards, both holdovers from the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) champion team.
Both also delivered on the scoring end with Diputado firing 14 and Cani adding 10 points.
“My first priority in the team is playing defense, the offense will just follow,” said Diputado, a Dumaguete City recruit set to suit up for the San Beda Cubs.
Defending champion China, the only other unbeaten team at 5-0, battles Saudi Arabia (2-3) in the quarterfinals.
The other pairings pit Korea (4-1) versus Indonesia (3-2) and Japan (4-1) against Lebanon (2-3).
“We’re 5-0 but it doesn’t mean anything since the next round is a knockout stage,” said Racela. “But the win gave the boys so much confidence, that they cannot only compete, but they can also win against the tougher teams.”
PHILIPPINES 83—Alejandro 34, Diputado 14, Cani 10, Asilum 7, Heading 6, Rivero 6, Javelosa 2, Ramos 2, Lao 2, Go 0, Caracut 0, Dalafu 0.
JAPAN 72—Sugiura 30, Baba 26, Kaneko 5, Shinkawa 4, Shirato 3, Aoki 2, Kenta 2, Kishin 0, Fumiya 0, Yoshitomo 0, Koki 0, Tomoyuki 0.
Quarters: 21-22, 48-36, 70-57, 83-72