HOURS after its official 12-man roster was finally known, Gilas Pilipinas took care of business right away.
Terrence Romeo exploded in the fourth quarter before Gilas hang tough in the stretch of a tense 72-69 win over China, in the process salvaging third place in the Imperial City Tournament in Bologna, Italy.
The Globalport wingman fired 13 of his team-high 18 points in the final period, helping the national team hold off a Chinese side that played without top guns Yi Jianlian and Zhou Qi, the promising 20-year-old center drafted in the second round by the Houston Rockets in last week's NBA draft.
Still, there was no denying the Filipinos of the win that came on the heels of back-to-back blowout losses against Turkey and Italy behind a losing margin of 35.5 points.
The national team dropped its first assignment against Italy on opening day of the short pocket tournament, 106-70, while its loss against Turkey came in a tune-up at Istanbul last week, 103-68.
Naturalized player Andray Blatche finished with 14 while Jeff Chan had 10 for Gilas, which formally announced its final 12-man lineup for the coming Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila just hours before the match versus China.
The match against the Chinese, led by the 18 points of Peng Zhou, was the first between the two regional rivals since last year’s title match for the Fiba Asia Men’s Championship won by China.
LA Tenorio and Calvin Abueva, the last two men out of the Gilas final 12, no longer suited up for the team, but watched the action from behind the bench.
Romeo hit back-to-back three-pointers inside the final four minutes of a tight contest, the first of which shattered a 63-all score, and the second one giving Gilas a 69-65 cushion in the final 2:28 mark that it never relinquished.
Ranidel de Ocampo failed to finish the match after getting ejected in the second quarter along with a Chinese player for getting entangled with each other.
The nationals are set to return home Tuesday following an almost three-week training camp in Europe, where they spent nine days of seclusion in the mountains of Kapernisi, Greece, and held a tune-up match against Turkey in the city of Istanbul.
Philippines (72) – Romeo 18, Blatche 14, Chan 10, Castro 9, Reyes 5, Fajardo 5, Pingris 3, Rosario 3, Norwood 2, Aguilar 2, Parks 1, De Ocampo 0.
China (69) – Zhou 18, Zhai 15, Ding 11, Wang 9, Zhao 5, G. Li 4, Zou 4, Sui 2, Jia 1, Q. Zhou 0, M. Li 0, Guo 0, Kelambaike 0, Y Zhao 0.
Quarterscores: 22-23, 34-all; 54-51, 72-69,: