SPORTS PHL Team Gilas Pilipinas Routs Lebanon, Enters Semifinal Round

THE GILAS TEAM in China FIBA campaign (Gilas Pilipinas Website)

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.
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