Palestine stuns Gilas in FIBA Asia opener

By Ivan Saldajeno

CHANGSHA--Just when everyone thought Gilas Pilipinas will sail to an easy victory in its FIBA Asia Championship opener, Palestine turned up the heat in the final half-hour.

Palestine pulled off the biggest upset of opening day of the Rio De Janeiro Olympic qualifier with a 75-73 win on Wednesday.

The Palestinians completely overcame an early 16-point deficit and banked on a game-winning three-point play by Sani Sakanini with 15.8 seconds left to stun the pre-tournament favorites.

Gilas opened a 28-12 lead early in the second quarter, but Palestine fought back later in the quarter especially when Andray Blatche, who waxed hot in the first quarter, got into foul trouble. The quarter ended with Gilas only holding a 45-40 advantage.

Gilas immediately reopened a 12-point lead at the start of the third period, but Palestine bounced back and cut the lead to two early in the fourth.

Gilas again rebuilt the double-digit spread by going on an 11-2 run to lead, 70-59, with 5:54 remaining in the game.

But it was a Jamal Abu-Shamala show in the final 5:31 of the game as he made three triples in the said span including back-to-back triples that gave Palestine a 72-71 lead with 1:38 left.

Blatche pulled one back for Gilas as he made a layup off a missed triple from Jayson Castro for a 73-72 edge with 1:14 remaining.

Gilas failed to capitalize on an Abu-Shamala miss as Dondon Hontiveros' triple went off the mark and eventually found himself on the wrong side of the Sakanini and-one as he failed to pick the Abu-Shamala assist and bumped Sakanini instead.

Sakanini even saved the game as he blocked Blatche's corner triple in the end.

Abu-Shamala finished with 26 points on 6-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc along with 15 rebounds, three assists, and one steal, while Sakanini added a 22-14-3-2 steals-1 block statline in a game where only four Palestinians scored.

Blatche scored 21 points, but he was 3-of-10 from the field in the second half. He added 12 rebounds, two assists, and one block.

Box Scores:

Palestine 75-Abu-Shamala 26, San. Sakanini 22, Qahwash 17, Sal. Sakanini 10, Haroon 0, Yousef 0, Younis 0

Philippines 73-Blatche 21, Romeo 11, Castro 10, De Ocampo 6, Intal 6, Abueva 5, Thoss 4, Hontiveros 3, Norwood 3, Pingris 2, Rosser 2, Taulava 0

Quarterscores: 12-27, 40-45, 55-59, 75-73

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