GILAS Pilipinas turned an expected all-out war against Qatar into a comprehensive victory.
Its outside shooting once again clicking, the nationals found a previously unbeaten Qataris side an easy prey to post a rousing 80-70 victory on Tuesday night in the 27th Fiba-Asia Championship at the Mall of Asia Arena.
There was no denying the nationals of their second straight win in the second-round preliminaries – and a 3-1 record overall – the moment they began hitting their outside shots early on and effectively clogging the lane against a big and tough Qatari team.
But more significantly, its second overwhelming victory following a heartbreaking loss to Chinese-Taipei last week put Gilas in a tie for second place with Qatar and a shot at ending up as the top team in Group E going into Friday’s knockout quarterfinals.
For that to happen, Gilas needs to beat Hong Kong in its final preliminary assignment on Wednesday, and hope Qatar does the same against undefeated Chinese Taipei (4-0) to forge a three-way tie for No. 1 with similar 4-1 records.
The quotient system will apply in such a case involving the winning margin among the three teams. Gilas, currently at plus-5 following the 10-point win over Qatar and the 79-84 loss to Taipei on Saturday, must hope that Qatar beat Taipei by less than 16 points to take the top ranking in Group F.
Qatar must beat Taipei by 16 points or more to get the top seeding.
Marcus Douthit was a force inside for Gilas with 19 points and 14 rebounds, but appeared to have hurt his right shin following a collision with Khalid Suliman Abdi in the third quarter.
Gilas never allowed Qatar to take the lead as it had a ready answer to every run the Arab team made while putting up a tough stand on defense thanks to top stopper Gabe Norwood, who hounded the tournament's top scorer, NBA veteran Jarvis Hayes, all game.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Qataris. A huge 21-2 run midway in the second quarter gave Gilas the needed momentum to finally pull away and inflict Qatar its first loss after three straight wins.
“In the second quarter we did not get back on defense. Our defense and offense were terrible,” said Yasseen Musa.
Qatar coach Tom Wisman added, “the Philippine team deserved to win tonight. They taught us a lesson of playing with intensity for 40 minutes.”
Gilas led by as many as 57-34 in the third quarter on a Jayson Castro basket, but saw the lead cut down to just 67-74 in the final 53.4 seconds when Indonesian referee Harja Jaladri made a controversial call in awarding an automatic two to the Qataris on a Mansour Atif Elhadary basket, which was made after he inadvertently blew a whistle.
The nationals sat on a 47-29 lead at the half behind another scintillating shooting from beyond the arc.
The lead reached as high as 20 points (47-27) when David, energized by the crowd’s repeated chanting of 'Gary! Gary! Gary!' made five straight points on a three-pointer and a drive to the basket.
Chan accounted for almost half of the seven treys by the nationals as he hit 3-of-3 from three-point range. In all Gilas shot 41 percent from beyond the arc, while Qatar was held to just 1-of-13 shooting from the same spot.
A booming trey by Norwood – the team’s fourth in the opening period – gave Gilas its first sizeable lead at 20-11 with still 3:26 to go. But Qatar was quick to counter by scoring nine straight unanswered points to end the quarter at 20-all.
Gilas waxed hot from the onset as it made its first three shots of the game including back-to-back three-pointers by Chan to set the tempo of the match.
Gilas Pilipinas (80) – Douthit 19, Aguilar 14, Chan 12, Tenorio 7, William 7, Alapag 5, David 5, De Ocampo 4, Norwood 3, Fonacier 2, Pingris 2, Fajardo 0.
Qatar (70) – Hayes 17, Saeed 13, Abdi 9, Daoud 8, Musa 8, Elhadary 5, Mohammed 4, Mohamed 4, Saleem 2, Saad 0, Ali 0, Saleem 0.
Quarterscores: 20-20; 47-29; 63-44; 80-70.