THE Philippine Under-16 squad rallied past archrival Taiwan, 77-72, to clinch a finals berth with defending champion China on Thursday night in the third FIBA Asia Under-16 basketball championship at the Azadi Sports Complex in Tehran, Iran.
After struggling with deficits in the fourth period, the nationals unleashed a 9-2 run to seal the win and gain a slot to the 2014 FIBA-World U-17 Championship in Dubai.
The Filipinos clash with two-time reigning champion China in a winner-take-all title match on Friday.
This is the Filipinos best finish in the biennial meet that started in 2009.
Forward Jose Mendoza of Ateneo High School led the Philippines with 28 points with four triples, while center Michael Nieto scattered 17 and collected 14 rebounds. Joseph Nieto finished with 11 points and Andres Desiderio grabbed 15 boards.
The Filipinos bested host Iran by 27 points, 79-52, on Tuesday in the quarterfinals to meet Taiwan in the semifinals.
After a 71-72 disadvantage with only 1:21 left in the game, Mendoza powered the rally that gave the Philippines the lead for good.
Traditional Asian powerhouse China routed Japan, 99-78, in the other semifinals pairing.
Taiwan had an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, 68-60, with 6:35 left in the match. But Philippines narrowed the gap to a single point, 71-72, after a 9-2 run en route to Mendoza’s nailing of the go-ahead three-pointer.
Nieto also scored with 37 seconds left expanding the Philippines’ lead, 76-72.