Sotto powers Philippines past Japan and into U17 World Cup
The Filipinos had to weather a furious late rally by the Japanese, who came back from as many as 13 points down to tie the game at 70-all just in the final 26 seconds. RC Calimag came through in the ensuing play, however, nailing the marginal layup that gave the Philippines the lead for good. Japanese ace Chikara Tanaka misfired on a turnaround jumper as time expired to seal the outcome.
Throughout the game, though, it was the 7ft 1in (2.16m) Sotto who made the biggest impact. He compiled 28 points, grabbed 21 rebounds, handed out 3 assists and blocked 3 shots in a marvelous show of force. Japan's smaller but quicker frontline tried their best to slow Sotto down, but the Filipino giant and his teammates would not be denied their place at the world level.
Calimag also impressed here, finally finding his mark from long range after struggling the past few games. He hit 3 triples en route to 15 points, none of his baskets bigger than his game-winner in the dying seconds. Back-up 6ft 7in (2.00m) big man Raven Cortez also stepped up with 8 points, 5 boards, 1 steal and 1 block.
As for the Japanese, Tanaka led the way with 17 points - most of which came in an amazing sequence late in the final period where he hit four three-pointers in a row. Undersized centers Yuki Satoshi and Keijiro Mitani put up 14 and 12 points respectively.
The Philippines knew they had to assert their size to win, and they did exactly that, outrebounding Japan, 53-45, and outscoring them in the paint, 48-32. The Japanese also couldn't get much perimeter shooting going outside of Tanaka as Keisei Tominaga missed all five of his three-point attempts. Their vaunted fastbreak attack was also negated here as they scored only 3 points in transition.
This win ensures that the Philippines will make it to their second FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup after previously appearing in the 2014 edition. Japan go back to the drawing board and will try to salvage some pride in the final two days as they play in the classification games.