Game Today (Preliminary Round)
9:30 a.m. – Philippines vs. Hong Kong
IT was one shocking start for Gilas Pilipinas.
Unable to hold its ground in the payoff period, Gilas Pilipinas, which led by 15 points in the first quarter, shockingly bowed down to unranked Palestine, 75-73, in its opening game in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship at the Changsa Social Work College’s Gymnasium in Changsa, China yesterday.
Sani Sakakini converted on a go-ahead three-point play with 15 seconds remaining to give the Palestinians what turned out to be the final tally, which they held on to until the final horn.
That came after Gilas’ naturalized star Andray Blatche scored on a put-back to give Gilas the lead back, 73-72, after surrendering it several seconds earlier.
In the dying seconds, Smart Gilas had a chance to either tie or win it, but Blatche’s three-point attempt in the final second was swatted away, allowing Palestine to escape with the upset win.
As a result, the Philippines (0-1) needs to win both of its remaining games in this preliminary round to ensure itself a ticket in the next phase.
‘’This tournament is far from over. This is not a statement game of who Gilas Pilipinas is. This is a big mistake by our team, by the coaching staff, by all of us,’’ said National coach Tab Baldwin. ‘’But we fortunately have a whole tournament to rectify that mistake, fix it and get us back to where we belong.’’
Today, Gilas needs to bounce back when it plays Hong Kong at 9:30 a.m. as it shoots for its first victory in a must-win situation.
Before Blatche’s putback, which proved to be the Filipinos’ last basket, the Palestinians orchestrated a 10-0 run that was powered by back-to-back triples from Abu Shamala and turned a 62-71 deficit into a 72-71 lead with 1:34 remaining. That was Palestine’s first lead since the opening frame.
Blatche led the Philippines with his double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds while Shamala was the biggest torn on the Filipinos’ cause as he spearheaded Palestine’s attack with his own impressive stat line of 26 points and 15 rebounds and Sakakini did the same, pouring in 22 points and 14 boards.
At the end of one, Gilas Pilipinas already stretched its lead to 15 points, 27-12, for a tighter grip of the contest.