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Game Report

Castro, Blatche lead Philippines past Lebanon

CHANGSHA-HUNAN (2015 FIBA Asia Championship) - The Philippines are just one victory away from an appearance in a second consecutive FIBA Asia Championship Final after fending off a brave challenge from Lebanon on Thursday.

Behind the powerhouse combination of point guard Jayson Castro and big man Andray Blatche, the Filipinos won, 82-70, to set up a Semi-Final with Japan on Friday.

The Lebanese fought bravely from start to finish in the Quarter-Final and despite trailing by 14 points, they managed to cut the deficit to just four midway through the final quarter.

But the Philippines, who lost to Iran in the title game two years ago and then played at last year's FIBA Basketball World Cup, held firm.

At bare minimum, the Tab Baldwin-coached Philippines will have a top-four finish and a spot in one of next year's three FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQTs).

Turning Point: After Lebanon closed the gap to just four points on a basket from Wael Arakji with 5:46 remaining, Blatche made two free-throws and added a jumper as part of a 6-0 run that gave the Philippines some breathing room. Lebanon kept the pressure on but got no closer than seven points the rest of the way.

Stats Don't Lie: The losing side made just 10 of 18 free-throws and the Philippines' bench outscored the Lebanese reserves, 25-8.

Game Hero: Castro (25 points) and Blatche (24 points and 17 rebounds) are worthy of this honor because each provided plenty of points for the winners in both halves and made big plays to keep the Philippines in the lead.

The Bottom Line: The Philippines threatened to blow the game wide open in the first half but Lebanon were great fighters. With Castro and William, and the emergence of players like point guard Terrence Romeo, who had another fine outing with 10 points off the bench, the Philippines have plenty of cause for optimism. Japan will be dangerous opponents in the Semi-Finals but the Philippines will like their chances against a team they have already beaten once in this tournament.