Gilas shatters Great Wall
A Gilas Pilipinas side that didn’t back down at all on Wednesday night just tilted the balance of power in the Fiba Asia Cup by bringing down defending champion China, 96-87, that put an automatic quarterfinal berth well within reach at Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Beirut, Lebanon.
Down to 10 men going into the last 32:27, the Filipinos built a commanding lead early and then bounced back from a momentary loss of focus by riding Terrence Romeo on offense and shutting down the Chinese in the final 4:20 for the first upset of the tournament.
The win, carved out even with Calvin Abueva leaving with 2:27 left in the first period after head-butting Li Gen, put the Filipinos in a position to top Group B and advance to the next round outright.
Romeo scored 14 of his 26 points in the fourth period, eight of them coming in a string that had the Philippines roaring back from an 84-87 deficit to a 92-87 lead going into the final 2:02.
It was a whirlwind offensive show by the 5-foot-10 Romeo, who played behind the shadow of Jayson Castro the last time this tournament was played in Changsha, where the Chinese scored a 78-67 decision to win the championship.
Defense jump-started the Philippine offense, especially in the stretch with Japeth Aguilar challenging every shot inside en route to a total of five blocks and Gabe Norwood harassing China’s best perimeter men to no end.
Christian Standhardinger also made his tournament debut in a huge way, holding his own inside despite being terribly undersized. He answered the team’s call at the last moment as its naturalized player after Andray Blatche refused to make the trip for security reasons.
It was a tense match, to say the least, with tempers flaring on multiple occasions and the Filipinos refusing to back down despite the size advantage the Chinese have on them on all positions.
Guo Ailun rallied the Chinese from deficits of as large as 17 in the first half with a virtuoso performance in the third period, only to foul out with 4:40 left in the game.
Gilas next faces Iraq at 9 p.m. (Manila time) on Friday.
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.