(2nd Round - Changsa Social Work College’s Gymnasium)
2:30 p.m. - Smart Gilas Pilipinas vs. India
FINALLY, Gilas Pilipinas got the breakthrough win it was looking for.
Jayson Castro was in his finest form, exploding for 26 points, three assists and three steals to spearhead the Philippines to a resounding 87-73 drubbing of erstwhile unbeaten defending champion Iran in the second round of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship at the Changsa Social Work College’s Gymnasium in Changsa, China yesterday.
Facing its long-time tormentors in international play and a legit powerhouse squad, Gilas played with a lot of fire and urgency to send a huge statement to Iran and other countries vying for the Asian diadem.
As a result, Gilas now sits at the top of Group E after a fourth straight victory, carrying a 3-1 slate to tie Iran.
The Philippines will conclude its second-round campaign today against India at 2:30 p.m. in the same venue and can clinch the top seed in the group should it register a fifth straight victory.
The win also formalized Smart Gilas’ entry to the next round and allowed the Philippines to avoid a quarterfinal clash against Group F against likely top seed and another Asian powerhouse China.
Down by 10 points early in the third, Smart Gilas didn’t get rattled and instead rose to the occasion with a blistering third-quarter surge that turned the tides around completely.
After trailing, 37-47, with more than eight minutes left in the third, the Philippines exploded to manufacture a pivotal 28-13 blast to end the period and enter the fourth with a 65-60 advantage.
With momentum on its side, Smart Gilas used a 15-7 run to open the fourth and build a comfortable double-digit lead, 80-67, after Castro’s basket with just 3:12 remaining.
That proved to be the closing blitz as Gilas Pilipinas held on to list the impressive win, while Iran was unable to put a threat anymore in the waning minutes.
Despite playing with a minor ankle injury and being saddled with two early fouls, naturalized star Andray Blatche still contributed heavily, scoring 18 points with seven rebounds and four steals for the Philippines’ cause.
Just like what they’ve been doing consistently throughout the tournament, Gilas’ newcomers and rising stars Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva again provided the needed support, scoring 15 and 13 points, respectively, off the bench.
The win was a sweet revenge for the Philippines since Iran handed a textbook beatdown on the Filipinos in their clash for the championship two years ago in Manila.
The low-post defense of the Filipinos on Iranian star Hamed Haddadi finally clicked as they limited the former NBA player to only 10 points.
Nikkah Bahrami led Iran with 21 points.