Hello again, mate: After ‘basketbrawl,’ PH battles Australia anew in Fiba U18
Funny how things have turned out.
Just over a month removed from an ugly brawl that shook the basketball world, the Philippines and Australia cross paths again in a Fiba tournament, this time in the semifinals of the U18 division, where both countries booked their tickets via dominating routs.
The Philippines weathered an early storm and whipped Bahrain, 67-52, Thursday at Stadium 29 in Thailand.
Batang Gilas, which remained undefeated after four games, also clinched a berth to the Fiba U19 World Cup for the first time since 1979. It also marks the first time that a team from the Seaba subzone will be among the final four teams since 1995 and the first time that the Philippines will have a chance at a medal since 1992, according to Fiba.
Australia forged the matchup after drubbing Japan, 88-52, later in the day.
But while the Australians, who leaned on Kyle Bowen’s highly efficient game, applied the chokehold on the Japanese right off the bat, the Philippines wobbled early.
Bahrain pushed Batang Gilas into a 26-34 hole before the Filipinos went on a searing 21-0 run to close out the second quarter and settle the issue.
As in its win over China, Batang Gilas relied on its twin towers of Kai Sotto and AJ Edu to bamboozle Bahrain. Taking a lot of lobs, Sotto finished with 21 points, 10 boards and three blocks while Edu punched in another monster game with 16 points, 17 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks to power the Philippines.
The Philippines had a 52-41 edge off the boards, including 19-12 off the offensive glass.
“We’re all excited about booking the World Cup berth but the job isn’t done for us yet,” wingman Dave Ildefonso told the Inquirer.
“There’s no time to celebrate,” added Ildefonso, who was limited to six points a day after powering the Philippines to a huge 73-63 victory over powerhouse China that charted Batang Gilas’ course to a showdown with Australia. “They (Australians) are arguably the best team in the tournament and we’ll go out there and try our best to get a podium finish.”
Australia was hardly bothered as it also nailed a fourth straight win like the Philippines.
Led by Bowen, who finished with 22 points after making all but one of his 12 attempts from the field and added 13 rebounds for good measure, Australia jumped the gun on Japan and zoomed to a 42-27 halftime lead that it just kept adding to.
The Philippines-Australia battle for a slot in the finale comes just over a month after an infamous brawl by both country’s senior squads during a World Cup qualifying match at Philippine Arena.
Ten Gilas Pilipinas players were suspended in the aftermath of the July 2 brawl.
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