Jayson Castro made his presence felt with a late game heroics as Gilas Pilipinas foiled Japan’s late rally 89-84 on Sunday in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asian Qualifiers second window at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Castro’s running jumper and Andray Blatche’s free throw in the last moments of the game saved the day for the Philippines.
Gilas advanced to the second round with a 3-1 win-loss record.
“We expected to struggle in this ball game. So even when Japan took an early lead, we did not panic because we knew that we would have a hard time and we basically knew that Japan will fight for its life,” said Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes.
The win is a morale booster for Gilas that lost 68-84 to Australia last Wednesday in Melbourne.
“So that’s why we made sure the second unit will be prepared. I know the second unit would put us back into the ball game,” Reyes added.
Naturalized player Blatche finished with 18 points, 16 rebounds and four assists. Troy Rosario added 14 points while Kiefer Ravena had 13 points to lead Gilas.
It was the Japanese team’s fourth straight loss.
Castro, Gabe Norwood and Calvin Abueva merged for 24 points also for the Philippine team, which defeated Japan in the first round (77-71) in Tokyo last November.
Castro beat the shot clock through a running jumper, extending Gilas Pilipinas’ cushion to 88-84 with just 10 ticks left in the game. But Tanaka muffed a three-pointer and Blatche secured the crucial rebound and was sent to the foul line by Makoto Hiejima in the last five seconds.
Blatche made the first free throw before missing the second one and Ryusei Shinoyama muffed a three-pointer for the final score.