Coming in to their third game in the 2018 FIBA Under-18 Asian Championship, Batang Gilas knew well that they will be in for a war against their annual tyrants, the U-18 Chinese National team.
With a direct path to the Quarterfinals on the line, the youthful Philippine squad overcame adversity and finally one-upped China, 73-63, in the final game of their Group Stage campaign at Nonthaburi Stadium in Thailand on Tuesday.
For the second time in three games, the offensively-gifted Dave Ildefonso led Gilas in scoring, tallying 18 markers on 8-16 shooting from the field and 2-8 from downtown.
The game was tightly contested for the first two quarters, with Gilas holding on to a 4-point lead at the half, 31-27. Coach Josh Reyes’ high-octane offense kicked in after halftime, as they outscored China 23-12 in the period after a barrage of threes from Ildefonso and Miguel Ocson.
The Chinese side put on a valiant effort in the fourth and cut the deficit to 6 with over two minutes left. Haowen Guo paced the squad with a game-high 24 points and 6 rebounds.
But the Philippine team kept their composure in the dying minutes by using the clock wisely and draining their free-throws – foiling China’s attempts for a comeback. Fil-Italian playmaker Dalph Panopio was his usual calm and collected self, filling up the stat sheet with 12 points, 8 boards, and 3 dimes.
Frontcourt pillars AJ Edu (13 points and 14 rebounds) and Kai Sotto (11 and 10) inserted their dominance and finished with solid double-doubles.
NUMBERS AND GAME NOTES
—Sotto and Edu hosted a block party all night long, swatting a combined 9 out of the Philippines’ 10 total rejections. The lanky pair came up with crucial back-to-back blocks in the fourth quarter which helped preserve the win.
—After missing all of his field goal attempts in their last game against UAE, Ildefonso figured in a phenomenal bounce back game. The son of PBA great ‘Danny I’ scored on a wide array of moves in 35 minutes of action.
—With China boasting an equally tall line-up, Batang Gilas was unable to secure a big margin in the rebounding department, leading by just a single rebound, 52-51. The Filipinos collected more defensive boards (42-31), while China owned the offensive glass, 20-10. Points in the paint were close as well, with the Philippines recording a 28-26 lead.
—Costly miscues by Batang Gilas in the fourth left the door wide open for their Chinese counterparts. The Philippines turned the ball over 19 times, which resulted into 15 easy points for China.
—The Philippines had previously lost its last three contests against China in the Under-18 tourney by a whopping average of 37 points per game.
—Batang Gilas has been the most dominant team so far in the FIBA U-18 tournament, winning their first 3 contests with a wide margin of 25 points per game. Their defense has been outstanding as well, holding their opponents to just 62.3 points per game.
—After sweeping the Group B stage, Batang Gilas will have a day to rest and return to the playing court on Thursday for the knockout quarterfinals.