GILAS Pilipinas delivered when it counted most as it held off Chinese Taipei, 90-83, to sweep the first window of the Fiba World Cup qualifiers with a comeback win on Monday night.
The Filipino cagers climbed out of an early 14-point hole as the shock troopers came through with the starters starting sluggishly.
June Mar Fajardo put up arguably his best game in a national team uniform as he led the bench, while Kiefer Ravena and Calvin Abueva also provided a spark off the bench
Jayson Castro brought Gilas home again as their shooters finally found their targets in the payoff period.
The Philippines resumes its campaign next year on February 22 against Australia at the opponent's turf before taking on Japan on home soil three nights later.
“We’re happy we were able to grind out the win despite us being nowhere near one-hundred percent,” Gilas coach Chot Reyes said.
“We drove home the value of having a good bench,” he added. “Our second unit gave us a big lift.”
Fajardo led the bench mob as he pumped in 17 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and two blocks in over 23 minutes, stepping up with Andray Blatche putting up a sub-par offensive showing with just six points on 2-of-9 shooting and committing six turnovers. The naturalized center did have 14 rebounds, five blocks, three assists, and one steal in 28 minutes.
Ravena made the most of his less than 16 minutes on the court as he chipped in nine points, five assists, two boards, and one steal, while Abueva added eight points, three boards, three assists, and three steals in 20 minutes.
Quincy Davis III led the Taiwanese with 20 points and nine rebounds despite having foul trouble, fouling out after less than 22 minutes on the court.
Taipei squandered its early lead, but kept the game close throughout, coming to within 72-73 halfway through the fourth, before Castro completed a three-point play that sparked the late salvo.
PHILIPPINES 90 – Castro 20, Fajardo 17, Wright 11, Pogoy 11, Ravena 9, Abueva 8, Blatche 6, Norwood 5, Aguilar 3
CHINESE-TAIPEI 83 – Davis 20, Chou Y. 17, Huang 16, Liu 7, Tsai 6, Lee 6, Chou P.C. 4, Chou P.H. 3, Chen 2, Chiang 2, Hu 0, Lu 0
Quarterscores: 18-23; 44-42; 65-64; 90-83