FIBA Asia 2015: Gilas Pilipinas ejects Lebanon, sets semis duel vs Japan

MANILA, Philippines – Hours before the Gilas Pilipinas knockout stage campaign started, its rivals have already booked their respective spots in the semis; Iran ousted South Korea, Japan deposed Qatar and China dislodged India. The three Asian power houses awaited for Philippines to complete the Final Four casts after Gilas toppled Lebanon 82-70 on Thursday, October 1, 2015 at Changsa – Hunan, China.

Blatche vs Lebanon
Despite of sustaining a shoulder injury, Andray Blatche punishes Lebanese big men under the rim
Facing the 4th seeded Lebanese Team was not an easy task to accomplish. Marc Pingris, Gilas’ hustle and energy guy who is also known for his humorous personality warned his comrades not to crack any jokes so that they will not lose their composure, momentum and killer instincts.

Andray Blatche was once again got beaten at the opening tipoff and Naturalized Lebanese Jay Youngblood posted his team’s first 2 points of the game while Jason Castro – William ripped the net from downtown followed by a smooth penetration in the middle for a quick 5-2 Gilas run.

Offensive rebounding was Philippines’ bread and butter in the early phase of the opening round that resulted to open looks for William and Blatche from the outside. However, quick and unnecessary fouls were once again became problems for the Nationals. They have already committed 3 team fouls with 5 more minutes remaining in the 1st.

It was really Jason Castro-William who was the go to guy for Team Pilipinas. He had 12 points in the opening salvo which was a good sign.

Andray Blatche was whistled for his 2nd personal and his team’s 5th that sent the foul shooters to the line. But Coach Baldwin gambled on Blatche and let him stayed on the floor, he pulled out William instead to give his fiery guard a well-deserved breather in preparation for the next grueling quarters.

Calvin Abueva hit a triple from the left corner and gave Philippines a 4-point, 20-16 lead after 10 minutes of intense basketball action.

Gilas started the 2nd period with a lame turnover from Sonny Thoss and Bawji of Lebanon made an easy layup to cut the lead to just a shot but Terrence Romeo was too fast to bring back their 4-point lead.

Philippines showed a tougher defense this time that was converted into a quick 5 additional points courtesy of Terrence Romeo and Marc Pingris that prompted Coach Matic to burn one of his timeouts.

Calvin Abueva gave Jay Youngblood a hard time in scoring. “The Beast” stripped Youngblood twice at least and enough to neutralize Lebanon’s scoring machine in the 1st half.

Not only Abueva limited Youngblood to 2-points, he had also cleaned-up plenty of offensive boards and contributed significant numbers in the 2nd quarter.

Haidar on the other end kept on adding points under his name for “The Cedars”. The Lebanese power forward was the first player who gave Coach Matic a double figure.

Andray Blatche carefully nursed his 2 personals that he acquired in the 1st came back and made the lives of Lebanese big men miserable under the rim. Blatche like Jason Castro – William had a dozen markers at the end of the half. Philippines steadily maintained its nibble lead of 5, 37-32.

It was a very low scoring ball game entering to the 2nd half and it was due to terrific defense implemented by both teams. Gilas Pilipinas as expected, started the game ball slow like their previous games. But starting slow for the Filipino cagers made them more effective in controlling the ball and tempo in the remaining quarters which resulted to 5 straight wins.

Gilas began the 2nd half with 2 turnovers and early fouls from Jason Castro – William and Bawji connected with an easy 2 points.

Right after William’s foul, it was Gabe Norwood and Dondon Hontiveros’ turns. And with their personals, Philippines consumed its 3rd team foul with 8 more minutes remaining in the period.

William - Blatche Tandem continued in 2nd half. “The Blur” drained a most needed three-pointer to give Philppines its first double-digit lead of the game, 44-34 despite of the very tight defense showed by Lebanon.

And just like that, Gilas Pilipinas reached its foul limit for the 3rd time in this game alone with 4 more minutes remaining in the penultimate quarter.

Gabe Norwood pumped-up the crowd with an alley-oop jam assisted by Andray Blatche but Saoud retaliated with a trey.

Andray Blatche gave the whole Philippine bench a scare when he hit the deck after getting hacked hard by Jay Youngblood. Blatche was hit in the left shoulder and was quickly attended by Gilas’ Team Physical Therapist.

Blatche’s absence gave Lebanon a big room to regain the front court and was successfully brought the lead down to 5 from as high as 10.

Terrence Romeo stepped up to escalate Gilas’ lead before the 3rd quarter horn sounded. Philippines somehow improved its performance and had an 8-point, 57-49 slight advantage heading to the 4th and final quarter.

A sigh of relief for Coach Baldwin and his boys after Andray Blatche re-entered the ball game but obviously feeling the hard contact given by Youngblood as he missed his charities. Thank heavens that Gabe Norwood was there to compensate Blatche’s misses as he bucketed a three for the first time.

Jay Youngblood who was limited to just 4 points was starting to heat his engine up as he connected a no-hesitation triple and forced Terrence Romeo to commit turnover and converted it into 2 points.

For the first time, Philippines managed to protect its team foul and reversed its ill fate when Lebanon exhausted its 5 team fouls. With this very rare advantage, Andray Blatche made a living under the basket and foul line at the same time.

New comer Terrence Romeo displayed his impeccable dribbling moves and ring less jumpers to give Philippines’ 10-point lead back.

Jason Castro – William hit his 25th point of the game with a long distance connection but was easily matched by Lebanon’s Haidar.

Marc Pingris who had a fantastic game yesterday, replicated his superb performance by converting lose balls to most needed points in the dying minutes of the ball game. Pingris’ 8th point gave Philippines a 12-point, 82-70 margin with under a minute, enough to eliminate Lebanon, move on to the semi-finals and fire back at Coach Vaselin Matic for indirectly insulting Coach Tab Baldwin with his words stating that Philippines is an easy opponent compared to Iran whom Gilas humiliated in the 2nd round.

WATCH: Gilas Pilipinas vs Lebanon Quarter Final Game Highlights (video courtesy of Youtube/FIBA)

Philippines will face Japan tomorrow at 9:30pm right after Iran vs China match-up.

With this win and regardless of the semi-finals outcome, Philippines automatically gets an invitation to the Olympic Wildcard Qualifier next year. But, it will be extremely tough compared to the Asian level. Much better if they win this tournament and bag the lone ticket to Rio 2016. - JoeyBoyCapos/TheSummitExpress

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