Gilas protects home court with a win over Japan

Gilas Pilipinas 88 – Japan 84

Gilas Pilipinas relied on the energy of the second unit and a clutch basket from the returning Jayson Castro to escape with a win over Japan.

It was a disastrous start for Gilas on their home court. Their defense was porous and the Japanese took advantage of the spaces allowed for them. The visiting team ran a crisp offense to run out to a big double-digit lead. Japan scored 20 points and took a 16-point lead in the first five minutes of the game.

Gilas got a shot of energy from their second unit. Kiefer Ravena entered the game and immediately made big plays to lead the team back. He dropped a corner three-pointer and a tough floater to set the tone for the comeback. The rest of the team followed suit as Gilas unleashed a 12-0 run to get to with four points. The defense of the team turned up and they forced several turnovers and got out to running. Gilas was able to cut the deficit to just one point heading into the second period.

A corner three-pointer by Troy Rosario finally gave Gilas their first lead in the game, 24-22. The second unit with Ravena, Rosario, RR Pogoy, Calvin Abueva and June Mar Fajardo continued their onslaught. The Gilas offense was rocking as they were hitting from every angle on the court. The Philippines jumped out to a 17-4 run to take a 15-point lead midway through the period.

Unfortunately, Gilas couldn’t hold the fort. Japan concentrated on attacking the paint and getting to the line. They countered the Gilas run with a 15-5 run of their own to cut the lead down to just five points heading into halftime. In the third period, the second unit stepped up big again.

Andray Blatche powered his way in the paint to lead Gilas to a double-digit lead. But it was Abueva and Ravena’s energy that kept them ahead. Abueva got into a scuffle with a Japanese player midway through the quarter and that energized him to get into the paint and score big buckets as Gilas jumped out to an 11-point lead heading into the final period.

The Japanese, in danger of losing another game, played with urgency in the final period. Gilas still held a nine-point lead in the final 1:23 of the game when Japan pounced on sloppy playmaking by Gilas. They forced two turnovers and got out to running. They cut the Gilas down to two points with a little over 30 seconds left in the game. That set the stage for the heroics of Jayson Castro.

Gilas ran a play to find their floor general in the end game. With the shot clock running down, Castro got a sliver of space on his defender and got to the paint. He lofted a looping floater before the Japan help defense got to him. The shot banked in as the red lights on the backboard went off. That was the dagger of the game. Gilas took a four-point lead with 11 seconds left in the game.

Gilas finishes the second window with a 3-1 record. Japan falls to 0-4. They’re currently second place in Group B, behind Australia who has an unbeaten record. Even with a third window in the coming months, Gilas has already advanced to the second round since they can only lose a maximum of three games.

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