France weathered a strong start by the Philippines to take a slim 45-43 lead at the half of their FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament match Tuesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Firing on all cylinders and riding the hot hands of Andray Blatche, Gilas Pilipinas went off rushing to build a 17-10 lead behind Blatche’s 12 early points.
The home team, buoyed by a loud and engaged crowd at the venue, extended the lead to 10 at 28-18 after 5 straight points from guard Terrence Romeo late in the opening period.
But the Nationals lost their grip of the lead as Les Bleus came charging back behind Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Marcel Diot.
A basket by Parker gave France its first taste of the lead at 43-41 before 2 more freebies by the San Antonio Spurs guard pushed it to 45-41 with 6 seconds left.
Romeo, though, stopped the bleeding for Gilas with a buzzer-beating jumper to make it 45-43 at the break.
Nando de Colo led France with 14 points while Parker chipped in with 12.
On the other hand, Blatche and Romeo top scored for the Philippines with 14 and 8 points, respectively. — By Josiah Albelda