The way the Philippines played in the first half was nothing compared to the way the team played in the second. The difference was like night and day.
All about team effort
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - September 19, 2018 - 12:00am

Team Pilipinas shot a woeful 3-of-32 from beyond the arc against Qatar in a closed-door FIBA Asia/Pacific World Cup Qualifier game at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last Monday night but managed to win, 92-81, because coach Yeng Guiao’s troops committed to playing lock-down defense the entire second half.

It’s not often that a team shoots 9.4 percent from triple distance and wins. But the Philippine team made it happen after falling behind by 17 in the second quarter. Guiao said defense did the trick and a lot of patience. Guiao played his cards right. He knew sooner or later, Qatar would run out of gas as coach Tim Lewis stuck to a short rotation. That’s exactly what happened.

In the first half, Qatar fired 7-of-13 triples but in the second half, went 0-of-9 from distance. It was a combination of tighter close-outs by the Philippines and the Qataris tiring out. Lewis, a master of the zone offense and defense, played four Qataris at least 30 minutes each while no player on Guiao’s side checked in for more than 25. Only Asi Taulava played less than 10 minutes, logging 9:50, but was credited for one of the Philippines’ three triple connections.

Team Pilipinas took 15 three-point attempts in the first half and 17 in the second. But while the hometown players kept trying to hit from outside, they didn’t stray from attacking the basket. The aggressiveness paid off as the Philippines trooped to the line for 32 free throws, converting 25, compared to Qatar’s 16-of-27. Alex Cabagnot, the team’s stabilizer in the backcourt, buried 8-of-8 free throws. Paul Lee was 6-of-6 and Beau Belga, 3-of-3.

The way the Philippines played in the first half was nothing compared to the way the team played in the second. The difference was like night and day. In the first half, the Philippines had 21 rebounds and nine assists. In the second, half, the team had 33 rebounds and 11 assists. It was the reverse for Qatar which had 21 rebounds and 13 assists in the first half but only 19 rebounds and five assists in the second. 

With the Philippines struggling from the perimeter, Guiao figured the way to offset it was by eliminating the three-point shot as a Qatar weapon in the second half. Then, as the Qataris huffed and puffed, Guiao put in Stanley Pringle to run the track. Pringle wound up with 13 points, six rebounds and three assists. Japeth Aguilar made up for Christian Standhardinger’s absence by collecting 16 points and nine rebounds. Belga, Poy Erram, Ian Sangalang and Taulava provided more size at four and five. Big Beau was particularly effective with 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots.

Qatar’s lineup listed two of the nine Bosnia-Herzegovina natives given Qatari passports in 2014 before they turned 16. The recruits are reportedly being paid $50,000 a year. The two were 6-7 Faris Avdic and 6-11 Emir Mujkic.  The other seven not in the roster were 7-0 Meho Haracic, 6-6 Kaid Zubovic, 6-6 Nedim Muslic, Faris Sadikovic, Jasmin Memic, Alen Hadzibegovic and Hamza Kurtovic. Qatar also purportedly recruited three Senegal teenagers, including 6-2 Moamar Gueye who played against the Philippines last Monday. Congo’s Tanguy Ngombo, 34, was the only naturalized player recognized by FIBA in Qatar’s cast. Ngombo was the Dallas Mavericks’ second round pick in the 2011 NBA draft. He and four others were declared ineligible by FIBA to play as Qatari locals at the 2011 FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan. Another player disqualified in 2011 was Mohammad Hassan who was born in Cairo. The Egyptian saw action at Araneta last Monday. 

What turned the tide for the Philippines was the team’s tough defensive stand in the third quarter where Qatar went without a single assist. The Philippines continued to falter offensively, shooting only 37.5 percent, but held Qatar to a lower clip, 29.4 percent. Only three players scored for Qatar in the period compared to eight for the Philippines, underscoring Guiao’s style of equal opportunity offense. In the end, the Philippines badly outscored Qatar in bench points 66-8. 

The total team effort was evident in the stats. Scottie Thompson pulled down six rebounds, including four offensive, Gabe Norwood had three assists and three steals, Erram grabbed six boards before fouling out, Matthew Wright and Marcio Lassiter combined for 11 points and eight rebounds, Cabagnot finished with 16 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals and Sangalang fired five points and took two rebounds without a turnover. Everybody did his share, displaying a team commitment that will be critical as the Philippines plays four more games over two windows in bidding to qualify for the World Cup in China next year.

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