PH is back to FIBA World Cup


The Philippines blew hot, cold and hot again and, for the second time in five years, earned its ticket to the FIBA World Cup.

Thanks to its 93-75 conquest of Kazakhstan Sunday night at its victim’s home court Sakyarka Velodrome turned basketball stadium in Astana.

The Filipinos, fighting in a biting 11 below zero temperature and an opponent playing for pride, called anew on their naturalized player Andray Blatche, who presided over coach Yeng Guiao boys’ unrelenting attacks that avenged their 88-92 loss to the same team of the previous window of the Asian World Cup qualifier.

Blatche, playing his finest game since acquiring Filipino citizenship through an act of congress in 2014, was all over both sides the court in leading the Filipinos’ game-long surge, firing 41points, pulling down 14 rebounds, stealing four times, issuing three assists, and blocking a pair of enemy shots.

Team Pilipinas’ June Mar Fajardo (15) grabs the rebound during the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers at the Sakyarka Velodrome in Astana, Kazakhstan. FIBA.COM PHOTO

The former NBA campaigner drilled in 17 points in the first six minutes to put the Philippines on top by eight, a lead the National lost, 33-34, somewhere in the second quarter but regained it as fast before obliging to a 45-40 edge.

As Guiao rested him briefly on four fouls in the fourth, Jayson Castro took over by knocking in all four of his 3-pointers to finish with 15 points, while a still ailing June Mar Fajardo adding 9 points and 7 boards in a 12-minute stint on the floor.

The win more than made up for the Filipinos’ 88-92 setback the Kazakhs dealt them in window five of the long drawn-out qualifier last November 30 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

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The Philippines, which ended up fourth in Group F with 7-5 win-loss slate, thus, joined host China, Australia, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, Iran and Jordan.

The Filipinos, actually, had to thank their archrival Koreans, who took the measure of Lebanon, 84-72, for clinching lone of the last slots for the World Cup.

The draw for the World Cup will take place on March 16 with play scheduled to begin in China on August 31.

“Andray carried us on his shoulders in the first half,” coach Guiao said in a telephone interview after his win. “He was on fire. I was kind of worried (at the start) that the rest of the guys would over-rely on him. But the second half, the rest of the guys stepped up.”

“We’re just glad it’s over,” Guiao said. “We were feeling the pressure prior to this game. We really wanted to win.”

“I want to tip my hat to June Mar,” Blatche, for his past, said of Fajardo, five time PBA MVP. “I got into foul trouble, he came in and really was a game-changer for us and took over the team for us.”

“It was a really emotional game for us,” Blatche he added. “It was either win or go home. I feel like we competed from the jump till the end.”

Jordan was the last Asian team to qualify after beating New Zealand 86-80.

Japan routed Qatar 96-48 to finish the qualifiers with eight straight wins. The Philippines was the only team that earned the distinction of beating the Japanese twice.

The Filipinos duplicated their 2013 predecessors’ trip to the FIBA World Cup, formerly called the World Men’s Basketball Championship.

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The post PH is back to FIBA World Cup appeared first on The Manila Times Online.



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