TERRENCE Romeo dazzled in the endgame as Gilas Pilipinas averted a worrying late meltdown to pull off a vengeful 96-87 win over China at the start of the 2017 Fiba Asia Cup on Wednesday night.
Romeo topscored for Gilas with 26 points, including a string of eight points that steadied the Gilas ship after China overhauled a 17-point deficit to seize an 87-84 lead with five minutes left.
Baskets by Christian Standhardinger and Matthew Wright capped a 12-point burst that enabled the Filipinos to avenge a loss to China in the 2015 Fiba Asia final in its hometown of Changsha.
More importantly, the win put an undermanned Gilas side on course to topping the tough Pool B in the eliminations. Iraq and Qatar are the other members of the bracket.
A sweep of the group will enable the Philippines to potentially sidestep an early clash with powerhouse Australia in the first stage of the playoff phase.
Fil-German Standhardinger, who took the place of Andray Blatche as Gilas naturalized player, added 15 points as the Philippines scored its first win against China since the 2014 Fiba Asia Cup bronze-medal game.
Gilas returns to action on Friday night against Iraq.
Romeo, who scored 14 points in final frame and eight of the team’s last 12 markers, took over from Jayson Castro, who orchestrated the offense with aplomb with 13 points and seven assists, with his beneficiary mostly Standhardinger.
Wright was the other double-digit scorer for Gilas with 12 points, spiked by two treys, along with three rebounds.
Japeth Aguilar anchored the Filipino dribblers’ defense with five blocks along with seven points, three boards, and one assist, against only one turnover in almost 26 minutes of play.
Guo Ailun sparked the Chinese comeback and finished with a team-high 18 points, while Jinqiu Hu added 13 markers, including two that gave his team its first lead of the game at 83-82 halfway through the payoff period.
Guo, however, fouled out with the game in the balance in the final four minutes.
PHILIPPINES 96 – Romeo 26, Standhardinger 15, Castro 13, Wright 12, Pogoy 9, Almazan 9, Aguilar 7, Norwood 3, Abueva 2, Cruz 0, Jalalon 0
CHINA 87 – Guo 18, Zhou 17, Hu 13, Li 11, Liu 9, Wu 6, Ren 4, Han 4, Gu 3, Yu 2, Zeng 0
Quarterscores: 26-16, 53-39, 76-70, 96-87