Gilas Pilipinas survived a fourth quarter scare from a tough Lebanese national team, 82 to 70, to advance to the semifinals of the 2015 FIBA Asia championships in Changsa, China. The Philippine team will face Japan tomorrow in their knockout semifinals match.
The Nationals led throughout the game, but were never able to pull away from Lebanon. The Philippines finished the first quarter up by four, eventually stretching the lead to nine before settling for a six-point lead at halftime. Gilas Pilipinas went on to stretch the lead to twelve in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter though Lebanon were able to close the gap to four, 63 to 59.
That proved to be Lebanon’s last hurrah as they eventually lost steam toward the last few minutes. Jason Castro led the Philippines with 25 points, followed by Andray Blatche’s 24 and Terrence Romeo’s 10. Blatche also dominated the boards by grabbing 17 rebounds.
Gilas Pilipinas had 22 team fouls throughout the game but Lebanon failed to capitalize on it as they converted only 10 out of 18 free throws. The Philippines also played better defense – forcing Lebanon to commit 13 turnovers (9 were steals).
Tomorrow’s game between Philippines and Japan is set at 9:30 PM (Manila time). It will be the second meeting for the two in the current FIBA tournament. The previous one was last September 27, where Gilas Pilipinas won 73 to 66.
By reaching the semifinals, both Japan and the Philippines are already assured of a slot in one of the three Olympic wildcard tournaments to be organized next year. The champion of this year’s FIBA Asia tournament will be an outright qualifier in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.