BATANG Gilas overcame a flat start and a furious comeback attempt by Malaysia, 62-57, on Monday at the start of the Fiba Under-16 Asian Championship in Foshan, China.
The Philippine youth cagers had control of the game after taking a 13-point lead in the first half but saw its lead drop to five in the waning minutes.
Malaysia, however, was not able to complete the comeback as the Philippines picked up the close win.
Terrence Fortea had 15 points and nine rebounds, while Kai Sotto had 12 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks in the close win by Batang Gilas.
Malaysia proved to be a worthy challenger, building a 21-14 lead in the second quarter, the largest in the game for the Southeast Asian neighbors.
Up 42-39, Batang Gilas went on a brief 7-1 run started by a triple by RC Calimag and ended with a deuce by La Salle Zobel teammate Raven Cortez.
Rafael Go hit a jumper to put Batang Gilas up, 59-46, with 4:39 left in the fourth but Malaysia made a run that fell just short.
Malaysia finished second in the Seaba Under-16 Championship last year and lost by 21 in against Batang Gilas in their previous encounter.
Batang Gilas will take a break on Tuesday before facing Australia on Wednesday to cap off the preliminaries.
Cortez had 12 points and 12 rebounds for Batang Gilas.
Tang Jun Kai John had 17 points to lead the way for Malaysia.
Philippines 62 - Fortea 15, Sotto 12, Cortez 12, Calimag 8, Go 4, Padrigao 3, Guadana 3, Andrada 3, Lazaro 2, Balaga 0, Bautista 0, Chiu 0.
Malaysia 57 - Tang 17, Lee J.H. 9, Wong T.M. 8, Teoh Y.K. 8, Foo J.X. 4, Tan E.W. 4, Yap R.S. 3, Khor H.W.J. 2, Tan C.W. 2, Abdul Rashid 0, Lee Y.T.W. 0., Teoh W.H. 0.
Quarterscores: 11-13; 30-27; 49-40; 62-57.