Gilas Pilipinas 77 – Japan 71
Everything was going so well for Gilas Pilipinas. After Japan opened the game with a three-pointer that got the home crowd roaring, Gilas answered with a resounding run to silence the crowd. Team Philippines was active on defense and forced several misses which allowed them to get out an run. They opened up a 14-0 run to build a double-digit lead at the start of the game. They limited Japan to just 10 points in the opening period.
Gilas was able to increase their first quarter lead up to 13 points before the Japanese got their rhythm. Led by their superstar wing, Makoto Hiejima, Japan went to work. They stuck a zone defense on Gilas and forced them to take outside jumpers. With the shots not falling for the Philippines, Japan found numerous opportunities to get back in the game. They got to within five points but Jayson Castro unloaded five points in a run to bring the lead back up to nine near the end of the half.
It was a disastrous start to the third quarter for Gilas. They coughed up the ball three straight times and Japan capitalized on their mistakes. The home team finally took the lead midway through the third period when Kosuke Takeuchi hit a big three-pointer from the right wing. The game turned into a close battle from that point on.
Castro steadied the ship for Gilas once again. He got into the paint to dish off to Andray Blatche for an inside bucket to give Gilas the lead back. RR Pogoy followed up with a three-pointer and Castro once again found the open man for the assist as Gabe Norwood hit a midrange jumper. The Philippines were able to take a comfortable seven-point lead once again.
Japan tried to make one final run in the final period. They pulled to within three points but Blatche and Castro teamed up for the finishing blow. Blatche, who was off for most of the game, hit a three-point shot from the left wing off a Castro pass to keep Japan at bay. He then dished off to June Mar Fajardo for an inside finish to increase the lead to 10.
Japan continued to fight back, cutting the lead down to just three points. Castro took it upon himself to finish the game. He was isolated on the left wing in the final minutes of the game. He dribbled faking a drive and then popped up for the dagger three-pointer to increase the lead to six. Gilas got the necessary stops to close out the game.
Castro finished with a team high 20 points to go along with six rebounds and seven assists. Blatche had 13 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks but shot only 4/11 for the game. Hiejima led Japan with 20 points. Gilas will be going up against Chinese-Taipei for their second World Cup Qualifying game here in Manila on November 27.
Photos from FIBA.com