HOW exactly did Gilas Pilipinas scale the ‘Great Wall’ that is Asian powerhouse China in its Fiba Asia Cup debut in Lebanon on Wednesday?
The obvious answer is Terrence Romeo.
With a dazzling display down the stretch, Romeo kept Gilas' head above water after China erased a 17-point deficit in the fourth. The spitfire GlobalPort star scored eight of his game-high 26 points in the closing minutes to lead the Filipino cagers to a vengeful 96-87 win.
But there’s more to the Gilas victory than Romeo’s breathtaking takeover.
With no Andray Blatche and June Mar Fajardo, Gilas caught China by surprise in relentlessly attacking the paint and taking advantage of its edge in speed, putting the Chinese dribblers in penalty early including two quick fouls on star guard Guo Ailun. The Philippine team went on to take a 26-16 lead, bucking the ejection of Calvin Abueva, after the first quarter.
Still, the Chinese team would eventually mount their comeback from a deficit that was as high as 17 with a furious fourth quarter rally, taking the lead momentarily before Romeo took charge.
The undermanned and undersized Gilas squad also played exceptional on both ends of the floor, hanging tough with China’s strengths while dominating in other aspects of the game.
The Philippines went toe-to-toe with China in rebounding and three-point shooting. The Chinese squad knocked down 12 triples compared to the Philippines’ 10, while they also grabbed 39 boards with the Filipino cagers just nine rebounds behind.
Standhardinger kept Gilas' frontline afloat despite the absence of Blatche and Fajardo, grabbing six rebounds to go with his 15 points. Roger Pogoy also had six boards while Norwood added three.
But what took down China is the Gilas efficiency on offense, and dominance on defense. China managed to have a 45% clip from the floor and 40% from beyond the arc, not bad numbers but far off compared to Gilas. The Philippines shot a jaw-dropping 58% from the field, and almost 59% from deep (10-of-17).
The defense, led by Japeth Aguilar and Gabe Norwood, stood out as well. Aguilar had a game-high five swats, while Norwood got three steals and the same number of blocks.
The Philippine team had nine blocks and the same total for steals, compared to China’s four and six on those respective categories. And the Gilas defenders also forced China to more turnovers (15 compared to 12 by the Filipino cagers).
Gilas’ aggressive play also led China to commit nine more fouls and led to 11 more free throw attempts for the Philippines. With Gilas’ 81% shooting from the stripe compared to China’s 44% clip, the Philippines managed to keep control.
Finally, the bench mob for Gilas delivered the killing blow. With Romeo leading the charge, the reserves gave the Philippines a 46-35 edge in bench scoring.