FIBA Asia 2017: Gilas Pilipinas sweeps Group B, eliminates Qatar

    MANILA, Philippines – Without its legit big men June Mar Fajardo and Christian Standhardinger, Gilas Pilipinas survived team Qatar, 80-74 and preserves its 3-0 record in the elimination round on August 13 at the FIBA Asia Cup 2017 in Beirut, Lebanon.

    Matthew Wright led all scorers with 25 points and 7 three pointers FIBA Asia
    Matthew Wright led all scorers with 25 points and 7 three pointers. Photo Credit: FIBA.com
    Despite the win over team Iraq on Friday night, Gilas Pilipinas retained its underdog mindset as the national cagers faced another Middle-Eastern team, Qatar.

    The Filipinos started hot as the opening quarter started. Team captain and veteran Gabe Norwood led the offensive onslaught for an early advantage.

    The Qataris who entered the game with a 0-2 standing, kept the game tight and matched Philippines’ intensity from the rainbow territory.

    Good ball distribution was Gilas’ key to its early lead. Even Calvin Abueva, who played subpar basketball for the first 2 games came alive and contributed in both scoring and assist departments.

    Flashy Qatari point guard Mansour Elhadary single-handedly carried his team on his back as Qatar’s scoring tempo dimmed in the mid part of the opening period.

    Philippines dominated Qatar after the first 10 minutes of the game, leading the latter by 9 points, 25-16. Matthew Wright led the way for Gilas with 11 markers and 3 triples.

    Before the game started, it was announced that June Mar Fajardo will suit up for tonight’s ballgame. However, it was Christian Standhardinger’s turn to sit out due to severe stiffed neck that he sustained against Iran. Philippines’ middle spot was actively taken over by Japeth Aguilar and Raymond Almazan.

    After the hot 1st quarter start, Gilas slowed down a bit and became scoreless for more than 2 minutes until rookie Carl Cruz hit a long trey. Cruz made more baskets after his timely three pointer that kept his team ahead by a dozen as the halfway of the second approached.

    At the 2-minute mark of the second period, Gilas Pilipinas was once again struck by an unfortunate event as Calvin Abueva slipped on the floor and twisted his ankle. Abueva was carried by his teammates all the way to bench for medical attention.

    Roger Pogoy rang the bell from the outside as he closed the 1st half to the tune of 41-27 in favor of Team Philippines.

    Bryan Cruz began the 3rd quarter waxing hot from the 3-point turf as he drained another one off Qatari turnover seconded by Gabe Norword with a corner trey for the 20-point lead.

    Mansour Elhadary sensed Philippines’ lack of threat under the basket and made a living from it. The Qataris trimmed the lead to just 12 with 2 more minutes left and sustained it until the end of the third.

    Not a good 4th quarter start for Raymond Almazan as he committed his 4th personal foul. Aside from Almazan, Japeth Aguilar and Gabe Norwood entered the final canto with 3 fouls apiece.

    Gabe Norwood, despite being in foul trouble still managed to make a double-handed slam dunk off Terrence Romeo’s missed three point attempt followed by an emphatic block on the other end.

    Matthew Wright continued to sizzle from the downtown that kept Philippines’ double-digit lead, 73-60 with 4:40 remaining in the game.

    Yehia Abdelhaleem’s three points cut Gilas’ margin to just 7 with 3 more minutes followed by Mansour Elhadari’s mid-range jumper. With just a 5-point lead, Coach Chot Reyes called a timeout to bring his boys’ composure on the defensive end back.

    Matthew Wright’s another outside shot gave Philippines a sigh of relief after a scary Qatari run. Jayson Castro-William went in for ball handling and security purposes. Castro-William melted the clock until the final horn.

    80-74 in favor of Gilas Pilipinas with Matthew Wright topped all scorers with 25 points and 7 three pointers.

    Qatar gallantly exits the tournament with 0-3 record and being the last seed in its group.

    Gilas Pilipinas sweeps Group B with an immaculate record of 3-0 and now awaits the winner of South Korea vs. Japan tomorrow for the knockout quarterfinals.

    -- Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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