TERRENCE Romeo once again provided the spark as Gilas Pilipinas put a rugged Iraq in its place, 84-68, to stake a claim on the Pool B top seeding in the 2017 Fiba Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon.
Held to three points on 1-of-7 shooting in the first half, the dazzling guard out of Far Eastern University exploded for 11 points in the third quarter to turn a 32-31 game at halftime into a full-blown rout.
His two free throws capped a dizzying 24-4 run by the Filipinos that broke the game wide-open, 56-35, and took the fight out of an Iraq side that rode on naturalized player Kevin Galloway's all-around game to keep Gilas at bay through two quarters.
The win, a fitting follow-up to a shock 96-87 win over defending champion China on Wednesday, enabled Gilas to all but clinch the top seeding in Pool B - and an all-important bye in the next round.
With a perfect 2-0 record, Gilas is expected to beat both China and Iraq in the tiebreak even it loses its final qualification match against also-ran Qatar (0-2) on Sunday.
Qatar tumbled out of contention for the two berths in Pool B after a 67-92 loss to China on Friday.
Romeo again finished with team-high honors with 17 points, spiked by three triples, along with four assists, two rebounds, and one steal in 21 minutes off the bench as he conspired with Christian Standhardinger in the third-quarter surge.
The Fil-German Standhardinger added 16 points and seven boards.
Carl Cruz also proved he belongs in this current crop of Gilas as he provided the needed spark with 11 points on a perfect 3-of-3 clip from beyond the arc, on top of three assists, two boards, and zero turnover in almost 25 minutes of play.
Raymond Almazan scored his only two points on a lefty slam off Jio Jalalon that gave Gilas its biggest lead at 64-41 early in the fourth period.
The balanced offensive effort was more than enough for the national team to prevail even though star guard Jayson Castro was held to just a solitary point after missing all his eight shots in 22 minutes as a starter.
PHILIPPINES 84 – Romeo 17, Standhardinger 16, Cruz 11, Pogoy 9, Norwood 8, Wright 8, Aguilar 5, Jalalon 4, Abueva 3, Almazan 2, Castro 1
IRAQ 68 – Galloway 23, Hamzah 12, Al-Khafaji 8, Ismael 6, Hameed 5, Hamad 5, Abdullah 3, Dhafer 2, Talib 2, Alfburi 2, Aljuboori 0, Alazawi 0
Quarterscores: 17-19, 32-31, 60-40, 84-68