Andray Blatche scores 41, Gilas Pilipinas books ticket to Fiba World Cup
Andray Blatche scored 41 points as Gilas Pilipinas secured a ticket to the Fiba World Cup in China after fending off Kazakhstan, 93-75, in the Asian qualifiers Sunday at Velodrome Saryarka in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Blatche set the tone after accounting for the Philippine team’s first 19 points. He went 12-of-20 from the field, including 5-of-10 from downtown, and sank 12 of his 14 attempts from the free throw line as he put on a shooting clinic.
The former NBA veteran, who has been on a tear since his return, also collected 13 rebounds, three assists, four steals and two blocks in just 29 minutes of play.
Gilas did its job by sweeping the sixth qualifying window after steamrolling Qatar two days ago but the Nationals wouldn’t have booked a trip to China had it not been for Korea.
Korea, the Philippines’ longtime basketball rivals, did the Filipinos a huge favor by beating Lebanon, 84-72.
The win by the Koreans meant Gilas only needed to beat the Kazakhs to qualify for the World Cup for the second consecutive time.
But it wasn’t easy as Kazakhstan, which upset the Philippines three months ago in Manila, put up quite a fight until the Filipinos poured it on from the two-minute mark of the third quarter led by Jayson Castro.
Castro took over after Blatche had to sit with four personal fouls with still 3:45 remaining in the third period. The speedy guard went on a personal 8-0 surge to give Gilas a 70-55 lead.
The 32-year-old Castro finished with 15 points on 4-of-4 shooting from the 3-point line.
Anthony Clemmons had 27 points for Kazakhstan, which simply just had no answer for the versatile Blatche.
Gilas shot a decent 46 percent from the field but the team also put in the work defensively by clamping down on Kazakhstan big man Alexandr Zhigulin.
Zhigulin was held to just 11 points on 2-of-10 shooting from the field after going off for 30 points against in the first meeting.
The Philippines, Lebanon and Jordan all shared similar 6-5 slates heading into Sunday’s playdate. Jordan went on to beat New Zealand, 86-80, to become the last team in Asia to make the World Cup.
Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, Iran and host China are the other squads in Asia to qualify for the World Cup, which is set on August 31 to September 15.
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