Gilas Pilipinas suffered a heart-breaking 73-75 defeat to unranked Palestine in the opening day of the preliminary round of 28th FIBA Asia Championship Olympic qualifying tournament on Wednesday at the Changsha Social Work College’s Stadium in Changsha, China.
After leading by as much as 16 points in the first half (28-12) and nine-points (68-59) in the early part of fourth period, Abu Shamala ignited Palestine’s 10-0 blitz capped by back-to-back triples allowing his team to seize the advantage with only less than three minutes left in the game.
The 6’11 naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche, who scored 21 points and 12 rebounds, allowed the Philippines to regain the lead at 73-72. But Sani Sakakini completed a three-point play off Dondon Hontiveros’ foul with 15 seconds left to snatch back the lead at 75-73.
Gilas Pilipinas last chance to win the game vanished with a failed shot as time ran out. Despite the loss, the nationals can still make it to the next round if they win against Hong Kong and Kuwait.
Shamala led the Palestine team under coach Jerry Steele with 26 points and 15 rebounds while Sakakini had 22 points and 14 rebounds.
Terrence Romeo of GlobalPort posted a measly 11 points while Jayson Castro contributed 10 points. Gilas will face Hong Kong today at 9:30 a.m. in their second game.
Hong Kong routed Kuwait 87-50 in its first game in the meet.