Gilas survives sluggish start, late Japan blast to win in FIBA WCQ

MANILA — Gilas Pilipinas bucked a slow start against Japan and took a win in Matchday 4 of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on Sunday night.

Japan went off to a hot start, quickly opening a 20-4 lead to the shock of the jampacked venue.

But just as Coach Chot Reyes inserted Kiefer Ravena to the game, the tides turned into Gilas’ favor as the team went on a 37-6 run spanning to the second quarter for a 41-26 lead.

Japan inched closer with a 15-2 run lead later in the second to cut the lead to just two, 43-41, with 20.4 seconds to go in the period, but Troy Rosario announced his return to national team play with a corner triple at the halftime buzzer for a 46-41 lead.

That buzzer-beating triple turned out to be spark for Gilas’ second half brilliance as the team reopened a double-digit spread.

Japan still put up a fight and cut the lead down to two, 86-84, with 31.5 seconds to go, but Jayson Castro made his Gilas return felt with a dagger floater with 10.3 seconds left.

Andray Blatche led Gilas, which clinched a spot in the next round of the qualifiers after going 3-1 so far in the first round, with 18 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and one block.

Rosario added 14 points and four rebounds, while Kiefer Ravena had 13 points, eight coming from a 12-0 run that eventually sparked the 37-point Gilas barrage midway through the first half, two rebounds, five assists, and two steals.

Castro contributed eight markers and three assists, while Jio Jalalon, the other player reactivated from injury bay for the game, made two points, two assists, and one steal.

Makoto Hiejima exploded for 23 points, four caroms, two assists, and two blocks for Japan, which remained winless after four games.