Jayson Castro drives past Mansour Atif Elhadary of Qatar in their midnight game Thursday (Manila time) in Doha.
Gilas unleashes fury, blasts Qatar
Nelson Beltran (The Philippine Star) - February 23, 2019 - 12:00am

DOHA – Unrelenting on both ends, Gilas Pilipinas easily repeated its 92-81 conquest of Qatar in their earlier match, fashioning out a murderous 84-46 romp in their rematch here Thursday night to stay in the hunt for a ticket to the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

The Nationals dealt the Qataris the severest blow in a third-quarter onslaught where Andray Blatche, Paul Lee and Japeth Aguilar combined for six three-pointers to highlight their breakaway.

There were also Gabe Norwood finishing a fastbreak on a thunderous two-handed jam, and Aguilar and Poy Erram authoritatively swatting away enemy shots in the decisive quarter that all but sealed Gilas’ sweep of the Qataris in their home-and-away series.

A predominantly Filipino cheering crowd filled the Al-Gharafa Sports Club Multi-Purpose Hall and stood as witness as the Nationals pulled the crucial victory that jacked up their record to 6-5 (win-loss) in Group F.

Gilas stayed at fourth place in the group, though, as Japan also repeated over Iran, 97-89, in Tehran earlier in the day. The Japanese caught up with the Iranians at second place at 7-4.

Team Phl must beat Kazakhstan in Astana on Sunday to have a shot at a World Cup berth as the “best fourth placer” from the Asian qualifiers.

 “For as long as we make the World Cup, that’s the most important thing,” said Gilas coach Yeng Guiao.

The Nationals hit an amazing 15-of-30 clip from the three-point land that Guiao felt started from their tremendous work on the defensive end.

“We just played great defense from start to finish. The energy was there. The guys worked very hard, every single one of them,” said Guiao pointing to Blatche, though, as the “game-changer.”

“Andray created opportunities for us on defense and offense. He changed the whole team. The guys feel good playing with him,” Guiao pointed out.

The nine-year NBA veteran marked his return to Gilas with a near triple-double effort with 17 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists. He also laced his solid all-around game with three three-point bombs in the third quarter.

“We’re focused on defense and in getting the rebounds. It helped us. Each guy gave their best and we did a great job that we hope to continue to the next game,” said Blatche.

Marcio Lassiter frolicked with 4-of-4 triples and finished with 14 points, Lee sizzled with three treys for 13 markers that went with seven rebounds and two assists while Jayson Castro chipped in two triples and 11 buckets.

NOTES: June Mar Fajardo skipped the morning shoot-around due to a slight fever but still showed up and played some minutes in the match. Chanting Fajardo’s name, the crowd egged on the national coach to bring back the 6-foot-10 behemoth on the floor in the closing minutes, unaware of his condition….. Just as Scottie Thompson reported to the officials’ table late in the second quarter, the Filipinos erupted into cheers of “Gi-ne-bra, Gi-ne-bra.”

The scores:

Philippines 84 – Blatche 17, Lassiter 14, Lee 13, Castro 11, Aguilar 10, Barroca 7, Erram 6, Rosario 4, Norwood 2, Fajardo 0, Ravena 0, Thompson 0.

Qatar 46 – Saeed 10, Elhadary 7, Fouda 6, Gueye 5, Khalid 5, Al-Rayes 3, Muslic 3, Mujkic 2, Abdelhaleem 2, Mohmmed 2, Avdic 1, Al-Darwish 0.

Quarterscores: 15-11, 31-21, 62-30, 84-46

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