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The cold never bothered Andray Blatche anyway as he lets it go for 41 points to ice Kazakhstan
ASTANA (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers) - The weather had dropped down to -10 C when the Philippines arrived in Astana, Kazakhstan for the final game of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers.
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"We don’t have snow in the Philippines so we’re just enjoying the cold weather," said Coach Yeng Guiao. "But I don’t think we’re going to last a few more days [here]. Its a good thing we’re going back to the tropical weather, but for the time we we're here, we were just enjoying the weather. It was different."
“We’re just glad it’s over. We were feeling the pressure prior to this game because we really wanted to make the World Cup.”
Not only will the team be going back to the tropical weather of the Philippines, they will also be going back as a team that have qualified to play in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 later this year in China. The qualification was a result of their 93-75 win over Kazakhstan, giving them a 7-5 record in the Asian Qualifiers to advance as the best fourth place team in Group F.
The man that led the way for Gilas Pilipinas in this revenge game against Kazakhstan was none other than Andray Blatche, who exploded for 41 points, 13 rebounds and 4 steals while shooting 12-of-20 from the field and 5-of-10 from beyond the three-point arc.
Blatche’s 41-point game is tied for the second highest scoring total by a player in the Asian Qualifiers, making him only one of three players to top 40 points. The cold weather might have effected some of the players on the Philippines national team, but Blatche was handling it as if he were at home.
"I was born and raised in Syracuse, New York so it’s very similar to back home," Blatche explained. "I’m also just coming from China where it’s very cold. I played 5 years in Urumqi and that’s not so far from here, so I was able to adjust easily."
Not only did the cold not bother Andray Blatche, he played like he enjoyed it. In just the first 6 minutes of the game, the 32-year-old center scored 17 points and knocked down 5 three-pointers on 6 attempts to set the tone for his domination over Kazakhstan. Blatch looked less like the 6ft 11in (2.10m) big man that he was and more like a smaller sharpshooting guard in the first few minutes of the game.
"I have no secret," says Blatche when asked about his secret to having a big game. "I’m just a big guy that grew up playing as a guard. I just use it to my advantage."
This win over Kazakhstan was coming off a grand return to the national team lineup for Blatche. He nearly recorded a triple-double and posted what was his most efficient game up until the monstrous outing he had over Kazakhstan to secure an important win.
The victory over Kazakhstan was indeed an important one for the Philippines, not only because it served as revenge for their loss to this same team late last year in Manila. The triumph was also key towards Gilas Pilipinas’s qualification to the World Cup for a second consecutive time.
"We’re just glad it’s over," Coach Yeng Guiao expressed in relief. "We were feeling the pressure prior to this game because we really wanted to make the World Cup."
There is no more pressure left for Coach Yeng and his team after this win, at least not until later this year. Now they can enjoy being able to go back to the warmth of their homes in the Philippines not only as victors, but as a team that will be playing at the FIBA Basketball World Cup.