MANILA, Philippines – A 2019 FIBA World Cup berth remains within arm's reach of Gilas Pilipinas.
The Philippines boosted its chances of qualifying for the World Cup after shredding Qatar to pieces, 84-46, in the last window of the Asian Qualifiers in Doha on Thursday, February 21 (Friday, February 22, Manila time).
Andray Blatche, who missed the last two windows for Gilas, returned with aplomb and finished with 17 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals – all-team-highs – and 2 blocks to lead 5 players in double figures.
It barely looked like a homecourt advantage for Qatar at the Al Gharafa Sports Club as the Filipino contingency there flocked the venue, at times forming a human wave and shouting "Gi-ne-bra" chants.
And Gilas drew strength from the cheers, with Paul Lee and Blatche drilling in 4 straight triples to swing a 31-21 lead to a huge 43-23 advantage at the start of the 3rd period.
Outscoring the Qataris 31-9 in the 3rd frame to enter the final quarter with a comfortable 62-30 lead, the Filipinos never looked back en route to sweeping their head-to-head matchup.
The Filipinos improved to 6-5 for 4th place in Group F and kept its chances of finishing inside the top 3 or as the best 4th placer from Groups E and F – both of which guarantee a World Cup berth – alive.
A win over Kazakhstan in Astana on Sunday, February 24, will likely secure the Philippines a seat in the World Cup. (SCENARIOS: How Gilas can qualify for FIBA World Cup)
Marcio Lassiter waxed hot from deep, burying all of his 4 three-pointers to chalk up 14 points while Paul Lee churned out 13 points off 3 treys to go with 7 rebounds and 2 assists for Gilas.
Jayson Castro had 11 points and 4 assists, Japeth Aguilar delivered 10 markers and 5 boards while Poy Erram showcased his defensive prowess with 6 points and 4 blocks in the win.
Gilas shot an impressive 50% from deep, knocking down a whopping 15 of its 30 three-point attempts.
Although the Philippines ran away with the blowout win, the game wasn't short of drama as Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao was tossed out of the playing court with barely 30 seconds left in the contest.
Guiao was contesting a non-call after Thirdy Ravena, who debuted for Gilas, was hit in the face during an alley-oop attempt. The fiery mentor was ejected after incurring two technical fouls.
Erfan Ali Saeed delivered 10 points for Qatar, which stayed in 6th and last place in Group F with a dismal 2-9 record. No other Qatari breached double figures.
Philippines 84 – Blatche 17, Lassiter 14, Lee 13, Castro 11, Aguilar 10, Barroca 7, Erram 7, Rosario 4, Norwood 2, Ravena 0, Thompson 0, Fajardo 0.
Qatar 46 – Saeed 10, Elhadary 7, Fouda 6, Gueye 5, Khalid 5, Al-Rayes 3, Muslic 3, Abdelhaleem 2, Mohmedd 2, Mujkic 2, Avdic 1, Al-Darwish 0.
Quarters: 15-11, 31-21, 62-30, 84-46.
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.