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Gilas opens FIBA WCQ campaign with hard-fought win at Japan

By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Gilas Pilipinas opened its FIBA World Cup Qualifiers campaign on a high note, beating Japan, 77-71, at the Komazawa Gymnasium in Tokyo on Friday night.

Jayson Castro came up with a huge triple down the stretch in his comeback game as Gilas withstood a third quarter charge from Japan to go 1-0 up in its road to China.

Gilas banked on its defense to give Japan an early pummeling, limiting the home side to only 10 points in the first quarter and 28 in the entire first half on only 27 percent shooting.

Japan, however, came alive in the third quarter, dropping 27 points in the said quarter and even took the lead at some points of the period.

Gilas' 22-point third quarter output, however, turned out to be enough as the team took a 59-55 lead entering the fourth.

Gilas somehow revitalized its game in the payoff period, reopening a 10-point cushion, 70-60, with 3:48 to go.

Japan, however, answered with a 9-2 blast capped by an emphatic slam from Ira Brown and a three-pointer from Yuki Togashi to cut the lead down to three, 72-69, with 1:38 left.

Castro then converted a booming triple in the next play before RR Pogoy sealed the win with a layup.

Castro finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and one steal for Gilas, which will return home to take on Chinese Taipei on Monday night.

Andray Blatche, who only joined the team last week, put up an all-around performance of 13 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, three blocks, and three steals. The short time with the squad, however, took its toll as he also gave up six turnovers.

Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Alas somehow struggled in their first game with Gilas' "Team A". Ravena only made one point while grabbing two rebounds and one assist, while Alas went scoreless.

Makoto Hiejima tallied 20 points, five assists, five rebounds, and one steal for Japan, which will travel to Adelaide to battle Australia also on Monday.

Box Scores:

Philippines 77-Castro 20, Blatche 13, Wright 12, Norwood 10, Fajardo 6, Pogoy 5, Aguilar 5, Abueva 5, Ravena 1, Rosario 0, Alas 0

Japan 71-Hiejima 20, Brown 10, Tanaka 10, Togashi 8, Baba 7, Harimoto 7, Shinoyama 4, J. Takeuchi 3, Ota 2, Furukawa 0, Uto 0

Quarterscores: 18-10, 37-28, 59-55, 77-71

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