Gilas goes 2-0 in World Cup qualifiers, hurdles Taiwan
In defending its home court, Gilas Pilipinas got a bit sloppy.
The old reliables, though, managed to clean up the mess as the Philippines turned back Chinese Taipei, 90-83, for a 2-0 start in the Fiba World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifying series Monday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
June Mar Fajardo, Jayson Castro and Matthew Wright sprung into action to put some fight in the Philippines after going down by twin digits right in the first three minutes, 2-12.
“June Mar saved us,” said Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes. “We got off to a terrible start.”
Gilas just couldn’t quite shake off Taipei—much like Japan in their 77-71 opening win in Tokyo—as the Taiwanese hung around for most of the second half until Wright stepped up to provide the spark the Filipinos needed in the final quarter.
The Filipino-Canadian Wright knocked in all of his 11 points in the fourth period, nine coming from three-point range, that gave Gilas some breather, 84-76, going into the last two minutes.
Castro led the Philippines with 20 points, the same number he dropped in Japan, while Fajardo also delivered 17 points and eight rebounds.
The Taiwanese last threatened at 73-72, at the six-minute mark before a Castro three-point play and the last of Wright’s three triples put the Filipinos in command for good, 79-72.
Despite the perfect start, the pressure mounts as Gilas takes on powerhouse Australia next in the tournament’s second window starting Feb. 22, 2018 in Adelaide.
Taipei’s naturalized player Quincy Davis dropped 12 of his team-best 20 points early to lift the Taiwanese to a 19-8 edge, before the Filipinos rallied to wrest the lead, 44-42, at halftime.
Aussies whip Japanese
In another qualifying match, Australia, nowhere near its full strength but still posing as the biggest hurdle for Gilas Pilipinas in the first round of the qualifying series, whipped Japan, 82-58, at Titanium Arena for a similar 2-0 start.
Australia kicked off its campaign with a lopsided win over Chinese Taipei, 104-66, on Friday at Taipei Heping Basketball Gymnasium.
Despite the final score, Australia did not have an easy time against Japan, not with the visiting Japanese shooting well in the early goings and trailing by just one, 23-22, at the end of the first quarter.
The Akatsuki Five stayed within striking distance of the Boomers up until the payoff period, where Australia outscored Japan, 22-8, to put the game beyond reach.
Reyes described the bid to beat Australia, which finished fourth in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, as “suntok sa buwan (a long shot) to the highest degree” even minus Aussie NBA stars like Ben Simmons, Patty Mills, Andrew Bogut and Matthew Dellavedova.
Australia, its current roster bannered by Olympic veterans like Chris Goulding, Brad Newley and Damian Martin, is among the favorites to qualify in the region as the new Fiba grouping merged Asia and Oceania.
Australia ranks ninth in the world rankings, the highest in the Asia-Oceania group, followed by Iran (22nd), China (24th), New Zealand (27th) and the Philippines (30th).
True to form, Australia wasted no time in showing its might when it torched Chinese Taipei with a 62 percent shooting clip from the field.
Daniel Kickert, who dropped 15 points in just over 17 minutes of action, led five Aussies who finished in twin digits against the Taiwanese. —WITH FIBA.COM
PHILIPPINES 90—Castro 20, Fajardo 17, Wright 11, Pogoy 11, Ravena 9, Abueva 8, Blatche 6, Norwood 5, Aguilar 3.
CHINESE-TAIPEI 83—Davis 20, Chou Y. 17, Huang 16, Liu 7, Tsai 6, Lee 6, Chou P.C. 4, Chou P.H. 3, Chen 2, Chiang 2, Hu 0, Lu 0.
Quarters: 18-23, 44-42, 65-64, 90-83