Gilas humbles China, winds up Euro jaunt

Nelson Beltran - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Gilas Pilipinas closed out its three-week European journey on a winning note, repulsing old Asian rival China with a morale-boosting 72-69 victory to claim third place in the four-team, two-day Imperial City Tournament at The Paladozza in Bologna, Italy Sunday.

Andray Blatche, Jeff Chan and Jayson Castro teamed up to give Gilas a 10-point lead in the third quarter then Terrence Romeo took over in the final canto as the Nationals held off the Chinese to secure the win coming from a 36-point blowout by the home team the previous night.

Romeo topscored with 18 points, including 12 in the payoff period, while Blatche, Chan and Castro contributed 14, 10 and nine, respectively, in the game they played hours after the announcement of the Gilas final roster vying in the FIBA Olympic qualifier at the MOA Arena on July 5-10.

“Great way to end this training. We still need prayers. Now, it’s time to go home,” said Gilas team manager Butch Antonio on his Twitter account.

Upon its return to Manila, Gilas plays one more tune-up game versus Turkey on Friday at the MOA Arena before eventually plunging into action in the FIBA OQT, taking on France on July 5, then New Zealand the following day.

Before leaving for their European jaunt, the Filipinos clobbered Iran, 81-70, in a friendly over at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Gilas Pilipinas, however, suffered a numbing 68-103 loss to Turkey after a nine-day boot camp in Kapenisi, Greece. Another big setback came at the hands of Italy, 70-106, Saturday.

“Way to end our Euro trip! Hopefully this win will be the needed breakthrough that can propel us,” said Gilas assistant coach Josh Reyes on their confidence-building triumph over the Chinese.

Everybody contributed to the total effort, except Ranidel de Ocampo who along with a Chinese rival was ejected from the game right away after a hard collision.

LA Tenorio and Calvin Abueva, who missed the last cut, no longer suited up for the game.

“I had discussions with Calvin and LA. Both are professionals and supportive of the team. Nothing worse in coaching than this decision,” said Gilas coach Tab Baldwin.

“I have great gratitude to both Gilas veterans for their Pinoy pride, total dedication and enduring passion for this time. They are true warriors,” Baldwin also said.

Changsha holdovers Blatche, Castro, Romeo, De Ocampo, Gabe Norwood and Marc Pingris, Gilas returnees Chan, June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar, and newcomers Ryan Reyes, Bobby Ray Parks and Troy Rosario make up the Gilas 12 carrying the nation’s hopes in the coming Manila OQT.

While Gilas gears up for the OQT, the Chinese are in their own buildup for the Rio Games proper.

They earlier hosted the Atlas International Basketball Challenge in Suzhou, China featuring Lithuania, New Zealand, Belarus, Japan, Macedonia and Iran before flying to Bologna for the pocket tourney versus the Philippines, Canada and Italy.

Versus Gilas in the rematch of the Changsha Asian joust finale, the Chinese opted to rest ace big men Yi Jianlian and Zhou Ki. Zhou Peng and Zhai Xiaochuan paced the Chinese with 18 and 15 points, respectively.

The scores

Philippines 72 – Romeo 18, Blatche 14, Chan 10, Castro 9, Reyes 5, Fajardo 5, Pingris 3, Rosario 3,  Norwood 2, Aguilar 2, Parks 1, De Ocampo 0.

China 69 – Zhou 18, Zhai 15, Ding 11, Wang 9, Zhao 5, G. Li 4, Zou 4, Sui 2, Jia 1, Q. Zhou 0, M. Li 0, Guo 0, Kelambaike 0, Y Zhao 0.

Quarterscores: 22-23, 34-34, 54-51, 72-69

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