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    Gilas Pilipinas breaks ‘Korean curse’, advances to 2021 FIBA Asia Cup

    MANILA, Philippines – The young Gilas Pilipinas led by twin towers Kai Sotto and Ange Kouame escaped South Korea, 81-78 and booked a ticket to the 2021 FIBA Asia Tournament on Wednesday, June 16, in Clark, Pampanga.

    Rivalry for continental basketball supremacy continues for the Philippines and South Korea as the top dogs collide in the third and final window of FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.

    Gilas Pilipinas breaks ‘Korean curse’
    The curse is broken! After 8 years, Gilas Pilipinas beats South Korea. Photo from FIBA.com

    Both squads sized up each other and gave a low output up until mid of the opener with Dwight Ramos leading the way for the host country.

    Teen prodigy and NBA prospect, Kai Sotto checked in at the 5:22 mark of the first but struggled in his post and got swatted on his first ever attempt.

    Despite 7’3” Sotto’s presence on court, the feisty South Koreans managed to hold onto a decent 21-12 advantage after the first 10 minutes of the game, relying heavily on their three-point shooting prowess.

    Come 2nd period, South Korea showed no mercy and capitalized on the Gilas Pilipinas cadets’ inexperience. The Korean assault was led by former PBA import, Ricardo Ratliffe aka Ra Gun A.

    The Adelaide 36ers center, Sotto finally got the hang of it mid of the second as he stood his ground versus Gun A both offensively and defensively.

    Sotto’s insertion in the 2nd quarter somehow ignited the fire in Gilas as the underdogs trimmed the once-17-point-lead down to 8, 44-36 at the half.

    Team Pilipinas played better basketball in the 2nd half. Ramos, together with naturalized Filipino Ange Kouame continued to downsize Korea’s advantage to the point of leveling the game at 52.

    South Korea recovered after the meltdown and ended the penultimate quarter with a 57-56 thin edge.

    The entire Gilas squad finally shrugged the rookie jitters off as Philippines grabbed the lead at the beginning of the final canto.

    Gun A who went ice cold in the previous couple of quarters, regained his composure and muscled his way up to recapture the helm with 3 minutes left in the ballgame.

    With a few ticks left on the clock and Gilas having a 3-point lead, South Korea flushed a sure trey to tie the game at 78 but SJ Belangel salvaged the last 2 seconds and hit the dagger triple for the win, 81-78.

    With the win, the Philippines officially booked a ticket to the prestigious FIBA Asia Tournament set in Indonesia in August.

    The Scores

    Philippines 81 – Ramos 16, Belangel 13, Kouame 12, Sotto 11, Tamayo 10, Abarrientos 6, Baltazar 6, Go 4, Nieto 3, Navarro 0, Tungcab 0.

    South Korea 78 – Ra 24, Lee HJ 15, Lee SH 9, Jeon 9, Kang 7, Moon 6, Yang 4, Kim 2, Lee DS 2, Byeon 0.

    Quarters: 12-21, 36-44, 56-57, 81-78.

    Gilas Pilipinas will be facing Indonesia next on Friday, June 18 at 6PM.

    SEE ALSOSchedule, how to watch: Gilas Pilipinas at 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers

    Congrats, Gilas! Laban Pilipinas! Puso!

    — Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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