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Hontiveros delivers as Gilas arranges final versus China

By Jason Espiritu

CHANGSHA--Gilas Pilipinas banked on Dondon Hontiveros’ torrid three-point shooting in the second half to squeak past an aggressive Japanese side, 81-70, in a highly-contested match on their way to the FIBA Asia finals anew on Friday. 

Hontiveros’ six triples brought Philippines back in a familiar territory in the championship but this time against host country China, which earlier defeated the Asian powerhouse Iran, 70-57.

The championship game posts a higher stake as the winner of the knockout game will book an outright ticket in a 12-team battle royale in the Rio Olympics next year.

Tied at 54-apiece in the fourth quarter, Hontiveros and Castro immediately built a 5-0 run to hand Gilas the lead, 59-54.

Japan’s Joji Takeuchi had an answer to keep them at bay, 65-69. 

In the next sequence, the Philippines found the perfect opportunity to drop a 12-6 bomb, highlighted by fifth and sixth treys from the Cebuano hotshot to pull away for good, 77-68.

In the third frame, the Philippines showcased a stifling defense as Castro drilled in back-to-back threes to give his team a six-point breather, 50-44. But a series of errors from Calvin Abueva resulted to Japan’s 8-0 barrage to close out the penultimate quarter in another deadlock, 54-all.

The Japanese had their largest lead in the second quarter when Makoto Hiejima spearheaded a 7-0 rally to snatch the lead, 30-24.

The team exchanged baskets in the latter play to end the first half at 39-all.

Japan put the Filipinos on foul trouble throughout the game as they converted 24 charities in 29 attempts, while Gilas only had six trips to the free throw line. 

Naturalized center Andray Blatche and Castro paced the Philippines with 22 and 20 points, respectively, but it was Hontiveros who stepped up at crunch time to finish with 18 markers.

Meanwhile, Hiejima exploded for 28 points in a losing bid for Japan which still got a chance to conclude at podium against Iran.

The much-awaited championship showdown will happen on Saturday, 8:30 p.m.

Box Scores:

Gilas 81- Blatche 22, Castro 20, Hontiveros 18, de Ocampo 8, Abueva 6, Romeo 3, Pingris 2, Norwood 2, Thoss 0, Ganuelas 0 

Japan 70 - Hiejima 28, Takeuchi 18, Tabuse 9, Ota 5, Furukawa 4, Arao 3, Tanaka 2, Hirose 1, Matsui 0, Ono 0, Mashimoto 0

Quarterscores: 17-16, 39-39, 54-54, 70-81

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