TEAM Pilipinas is going back to the Fiba Basketball World Cup.
The Philippines clinched a berth in the World Cup on Sunday night after beating Kazakhstan, 93-75, in its final qualifying match at the Republican Velodrome Saryarka in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Andray Blatche played his best game as a member of Team Pilipinas after finishing with 41 points, 14 rebounds, four steals, and two blocks to lead the Nationals to a World Cup berth for the second straight time.
Gilas replicated its trip to the 2014 Fiba World Cup with help from arch-rival Korea, whose 84-72 victory over Lebanon enabled the Philippines to finish as the best fourth-placer in the Asian qualifiers.
The Philippines finished fourth in Group F with a 7-5 card, the same record posted by Jordan in Group E after a shock win over New Zealand.
Blatche set the tone for Team Pilipinas, scoring 17 points in the first quarter before the locals led by Jayson Castro picked it up in the second half in support of their naturalized player.
Despite a hot start that saw Gilas take a 21-13 lead midway through the first quarter, the Philippine squad had anxious moments as Kazakhstan even took the lead, 39-36, in the second period.
Gilas was only up five, 45-40, at halftime.
But Team Pilipinas began pulling away in the third period. Castro converted a huge triple that brought Gilas’ lead to 68-55 in the quarter and it was all Philippines the rest of the way.
Blatche shot 12 of 20 from the field, including a 5-of-10 clip from three-point range as he continued his rousing return to the team after missing the previous two windows.
Castro had 15 points, while June Mar Fajardo had nine points and seven rebounds after playing limited minutes in the last game against Qatar due to flu.
Paul Lee and Marcio Lassiter had eight points each including baskets in the fourth that kept Kazakhstan at bay.
Anthony Clemmons had 27 points for Kazakhstan, which was unable to repeat its win over the Philippines last November at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Philippines 93 – Blatche 41, Castro 15, Fajardo 9, Lassiter 8, Lee 8, Rosario 4, Aguilar 4, Pogoy 2, Barroca 2, Ravena 0, Erram 0, Norwood 0.
Kazakhstan 75 – Clemmons 27, Gavrilov 12, Yergali 11, Zhigulin 8, Murzagaliyev 8, Maidekin 4, Bazhin 3, Bykov 2, Aitkali 0, Kuanov 0.
Quarters: 22-21; 45-40; 71-60; 93-75.