TAIPEI - Gilas Pilipinas turned to Matthew Wright and Christian Standhardinger to survive a fright from an inspired Japan side, 100-85, and stay in the title hunt in the 39th Jones Cup ahead of a crucial face-off against longtime nemesis South Korea.
Fil-German Standhardinger put up another double-double performance and kept the Philippines afloat long enough for Wright to preside over a late-game 12-0 run that locked up Gilas' third straight win after an opening loss in this 10-nation, nine-day conclave.
National coach Chot Reyes, however, wasn't a happy man at the end of the game and is demanding more from his young side for the match against Korea, which has stayed unbeaten through its first three games despite sending a team with only two national players in the lineup.
"There are no such thing as a weak team in a tournament such as this, and that was what I told the players," said Reyes. "Japan gave us all we could handle and fortunately, we were able to weather the storm."
Reyes awarded teen Kobe Paras his first start in the tournament and gave significant minutes to rarely used Gilas cadets Von Pessumal, Mike Tolomia, and Fonso Gotladera for the game against Japan, which had lost its first three games by wide margins.
But in the end, Reyes was forced to go with his most seasoned players in Kiefer Ravena, Jio Jalalon, Wright, Standhardinger and import Mike Myers to put away a game where the Filipinos still trailed, 72-73, with just under seven minutes remaining.
The 6-8 Standhardinger led Gilas with 22 points and 15 boards while Myers had 17 points and 17 rebounds. The duo helped the Philippines dominate the boards, 49-35, against Japan's Under-24 side.
Wright added 15 points and four assists, Jalalon added 11 points and two steals, Ravena contributed 11 points and four assists while Pessumal hit two early three-pointers for Gilas.
"Coach said we had to respect the game, respect the other teams, but obviously we didn't do that in the first half," said Ravena.
For the second straight game, Gilas found itself in a dogfight against a team it was expected to beat handily, trailing by six points, 47-53, deep into the third quarter against a young Japan side that executed flawlessly and shot the ball impeccably.
More worryingly, the Gilas cadets time and again blew defensive rotations and gave the Japanese good looks at the basket to the consternation of Reyes, who, in the end, had to go to his two most veteran players to put the win away.
Yusei Sugiura led Japan with 22 points.
Gilas 100 - Standhardinger 22, Myers 17, Wright 15, Ravena 11, Jalalon 11, Cruz 7, Pessumal 6, Pogoy 5, Paras 4, Tolomia 2, Gotladera 0.
Japan 85 – Sugiura 22, Vendrame 12, Hiraiwa 12, Hara 12, Ando 11, Nomoto 9, Tawatari 5, Ikuhara 2, Sato 0, Taichi 0.
Quarterscores: 19-16, 41-42, 66-66, 100-85