Jayson Castro and Andray Blatche provided the huge lift for Gilas Pilipinas as they put away a pesky Lebanon crew, 82-70 Thursday and advance to the semi-finals of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, China.
Blatche brushed off another injury scare and towered over the opposition with his 24 points and 17 rebounds while Castro chipped in a game-high 25 points on 10-for-17 shooting and a 50 percent clip from beyond the arc.
Castro waxed hot in the early goings, firing 12 points to lead the nationals although Lebanon’s Mohamad Haidar and Bassel Bawji took turns in doing damage inside to keep the West Asian side in the match.
The first period ended 20-16 and after a Bawji basket pulled Lebanon within two points in the second quarter, Terrence Romeo scored 5 straight in a 7-0 run which gave Gilas more breathing room at 27-18.
Blatche started to attack the interior to generate more baskets although the hard-fighting Lebanese crew kept it close at the half, 37-32.
A triple by Castro and baskets by Blatche enabled the Philippines to take its first double-digit lead at 48-36, but Lebanon kept punching as Jay Youngblood and Jean Abdel Nour carried the offense.
A triple by Youngblood early in the fourth made it 61-57, but it was the closest Lebanon could get as Blatche scored 6 straight as part of an 8-2 blast that gave Gilas a 69-59 edge.
A one-hander by Marc Pingris followed by a triple by Castro with just over two minutes left put away Lebanon for good as the lead grew to 74-62.
Gilas will battle Japan which it defeated in the second round. Japan edged Qatar in their quarter-final duel, 81-67.
The win also assured the Philippines of a slot in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament next year, which is a tournament put up by FIBA for runner-up nations which did not make the Olympics outright via the respective continental championships.
Philippines (82) – Castro 25, Blatche 24, Romeo 10, Pingris 8, Abueba 7, Norwood 5, De Ocampo 3, Ganuelas 0, Hontiveros 0, Thoss 0.
Lebanon (70) – Haidar 18, Bawji 17, Youngblood 12, Abdel Nour 8, Arakji 8, Saoud 7, Akl 0.
Quarters: 20-16, 37-32, 57-49, 82-70.
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