|THE GILAS TEAM in China FIBA campaign (Gilas Pilipinas Website)|
By DENNIS GASGONIA, ABS-CBNnews.com
Gilas Pilipinas advanced to the semifinal round of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship by out-hustling a fast-paced Lebanese team in Changsha, China late Thursday.
The Filipinos mounted a strong push in the decisive fourth quarter to close out Lebanon, 82-70, in the knockout stage quarterfinal.
Jason Castro paced Gilas with 25 points by shooting 10-of-17 from the field.
Andray Blatche also came up with huge numbers by tallying a double-double of 24 markers and 17 boards to spark the Filipinos’ march to the semifinals.
After Lebanon scored the first basket, Castro led Gilas to a 10-6 lead midway the first quarter. Bassel Bawji made it a 1-point game for the Lebanese squad, but the Filipinos stretched the advantage to 17-11.
The Lebanese team picked up the pace to catch up after staring at an 18-27 deficit. M. Haidar and Bawji managed to trim Gilas’ lead to 37-32 going to the second half, despite Blatche’s dominance in the paint.
Lebanon again mounted a run in the third canto, but Castro was quick to quell the uprising by securing a steal and running away for an easy two. After Blatche’s long two, Castro fired from beyond the arc to make it 44-34 for Gilas.
The Filipinos got a scare when Blatche went down after a hard foul from Lebanon’s J. Youngblood. This temporarily sent the former Brooklyn Nets player out of the game. The period ended with Gilas still ahead, 57-49.
After Bawji’s triple, Gabe Norwood nailed a looper of his own to give the nationals a 61-52 gap. Lebanon made another hard push, with Youngblood making his shots from beyond the three-point line and his teammates attacking the basket to pull within 59-63.
The nationals started to pull away with successive baskets by Marc Pingris and Castro, but Lebanon refused to go away as Haidar connected another triple with 1:47 to go.
With the win, the Philippines will face Japan on Friday.
An efficient Japanese team made the most at both ends of the court to beat Qatar, 81-74, and secure their place in the semis.
Whoever wins the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship will get the coveted slot at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
For more sports coverage, visit ABS-CBN Sports (From abs-cbnnews.com/Dennis Gasgonia)