Gilas Pilipinas conquers Japan to open World Cup qualifiers - gohong01

The Philippines took the first step in a long journey to the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup with a rousing 77-71 victory over Japan on Friday in Tokyo.

Gilas Pilipinas had a hot start powered by solid defense and forced turnovers, taking an 18-10 lead after the first period.

A layup by Calvin Abueva pushed the Philippines lead, 23-10, early in the second period. Gilas eventually settled for a 37-28 advantage heading into the halftime break.

But Japan found its rhythm to start the third period, scoring the first 12 points of the quarter for a 40-37 lead.

Matthew Wright broke the Gilas silence with a three-pointer to tie the game, which was a nip-and-tuck affair the rest of the third period. Naturalized center Andray Blatche, who struggled against Japan's fast-paced attack, scored a three-pointer to give Gilas a 59-55 lead heading into the final period.

The Philippines found its second wind early in the fourth period, opening up another double-digit lead, 70-60.

But Japan responded with a furious 9-2 run that cut the Gilas lead to a single possession, 72-69.

Jayson Castro, who led Gilas with 20 points,  responded with a three-pointer, before a layup by Roger Pogoy iced the game, 77-69, with less than 30 seconds left.

Gilas will return to Manila to host Chinese-Taipei in its second assignment in Group B on Monday at SMART-Araneta Coliseum. —JST, GMA News

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