THE stage is set for another showdown between Gilas Pilipinas and South Korea in Asian basketball after the Philippines' old nemesis turned back Japan, 81-68, in the first phase of the knockout rounds of the 2017 Fiba Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon.
Big boys Ho Sekeun and Lee Seong Hyun each scored 16 points to pace the Koreans, who bucked a slow start against the hot-shooting Japanese then went on a late tear to peel off from a tight 57-56 contest at the Noufad Nawfal Sports Complex.
Korea, which finished the group stage in third place in Pool C after losing out to New Zealand and Lebanon in the quotient system to break a three-way tie at 2-1 (win-loss), now meets the Philippines on Wednesday for a place in the semifinals.
Gilas drew a bye after topping Pool B with a perfect 3-0 record highlighted by an upset win over defending champion China and should come in as the slight favorite in the Final Eight encounter.
However, the Koreans will be going into Wednesday's match riding a good wave of form, having won three successive matches after an opening 66-72 loss to host Lebanon.
One of those victories was a 76-75 win over Asian zone newcomer New Zealand on Sunday.
The Koreans have also dealt the Philippines a number of heartbreakers in their rivalry, although Gilas ended that curse with a famous win in the 2013 Fiba Asia semifinals in Manila that earned it a ticket to the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Spain.
The last time the two teams met, Korea beat a Gilas team made up predominantly of cadets, 83-72, in the 39th Jones Cup in Chinese Taipei.
Former San Miguel import Ira Brown led Japan with 14 points and five rebounds.