The Philippine Under-16 squad rallied past archrival Taiwan, 77-72, on Thursday to seal a showdown with defending champion China for the FIBA Asia Under-16 basketball championship in Tehran, Iran.
After trailing in the fourth period, the Filipinos unleashed a 9-2 run to clinch the win and earn a ticket to the FIBA-World U-17 Championship in Dubai next year.
The Filipinos clash with two-time reigning champion China later Friday night.
This is 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 routed host Iran by 27 points, 79-52, Tuesday night in the quarterfinals and faced Taiwan in the semifinals.
Down 71-72 with only 1:21 left in the game, Mendoza knocked in a long trey that gave the Philippines the lead.
Nieto scored on a putback with 37 seconds left to put the Philippines out of Taiwan’s reach, 76-72.
China routed Japan, 99-78, in the other semifinal pairing.
JOSEF T. RAMOS