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Philippines beat Kazakhstan for breakthrough win
TEHRAN (FIBA Asia Challenge 2016) – After falling short in their first three chances, Gilas Pilipinas finally got a breakthrough after beating Kazakhstan in Group F play, 98-86, at the FIBA Asia Challenge 2016 in Tehran, Iran.
Like in their first few games, coach Josh Reyes’s wards started strong, leading by twelve after the first quarter, but Kazakhstan put the pressure in the middle two frames to trim the deficit, 60-56, entering the fourth period. Mac Belo, however, had other plans. The versatile 1.91m forward scored 12 of his 30 points in the final ten minutes to buoy the Filipinos’ strong finish that preserved their big win.
Turning Point: Kazakhstan last threatened at the 5:31 mark of the fourth quarter after Pavel Ilin connected on two free throws to peg the score at 79-74 with the Philippines up, but Belo and Ed Daquioag conspired in a 6-0 spurt that gave Gilas a comfortable 11-point lead with just about 4 minutes to go. That gave the Filipinos enough separation as they just played keep-away till the final buzzer.
Stats Don't Lie: Shooting futility did Kazakhstan in. Coach Eduard Skrypets’s wards shot a paltry 59% from the free throw line (23-of-39) and made just 1 three-pointer out of 19 tries. Turnovers hurt them, too, as the Kazakhs coughed the ball up 21 times compared to just 16 for the Philippines.
Game Hero: Belo just exploded in this one. The 23-year-old wingman tossed in a tournament-high 30 points on 11-of-18 field goal shooting. He padded his stats even more by adding 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 3 triples. It sure looks like the Philippines have found a new rising star in their midst.
The Bottom Line: More than the morale boost, this win win salvaged any hope the Philippines had of making it to the Quarter-Finals. If Jordan lose to Chinese Taipei today and Gilas beat Al Nashama tomorrow, coach Reyes’s boys should book a ticket to the next round. Otherwise, they’ll be watching from sidelines the rest of the way like the Kazakhs, who have effectively been eliminated from contention.