Gilas Pilipinas blew a double-digit lead but recovered just in time behind Terrence Romeo’s explosion late in the game to pull off a 96-87 shocker at the start of their Group B encounter in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup on Wednesday at the Beirut Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Beirut, Lebanon.
The Filipino cagers lost their 17-point lead as China, the reigning Asian Cup champion, started to connect from the rainbow territory and reclaim the lead at 87-84 behind Guo Ailun and Zhou Peng.
Romeo answered with a triple and converted a difficult jumper to spark a 12-2 wind up for the Philippine team and hold on for the victory.
Romeo finished with 26 points in 21 minutes, highlighted by five triples while Filipino-German Christian Standhardinger and Jayson Castro chipped in 15 and 13 markers, respectively, for Gilas 5, which avenged its gold-medal match loss to China two years ago in Changsa.
Filipino-Canadian Matthew Wright contributed 12 points while RR Pogoy and Raymund Almazan each had nine for the PH 5. Japeth Aguilar was also huge on defense, swatting five Chinese attempts in the highly physical encounter.
Calvin Abueva was tossed out after giving China’s Li Gen a headbutt late in the first period.
Ailun, one of the rising stars in Chinese basketball, tallied a game-high 18 points before fouling out midway in the fourth period. China played minus its two star players Yi Jianlian and Zhou Qi.
The Philippines plays vs Iraq on Friday at 9 p.m. (Manila time).