There’s nothing like celebrating at home.
Mighty China put on an electrifying performance in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship final to eclipse Gilas Pilipinas Saturday and notch the lone outright Olympic berth at stake for the continent.
Buoyed by thousands of rabid fans inside the venue, the Chinese side came out on fire in the second half and never looked back as they destroyed the Philippines with a victory which put them back on top of Asian basketball, 78-67.
Gilas will settle for the silver but the road towards the Olympics doesn’t end just yet as they shall compete with other continents’ runner-up nations in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament next year.
China’s win puts them back on top of Asian basketball after they missed the podium in 2013. China won the gold in 2011 when they hosted the event in Wuhan.
Blazing start, hotter response
Gilas’ shooting got off to a hot start after Dondon Hontiveros drained a triple while Jayson Castro had two baskets to push the Philippines ahead 7-3.
Back to back triples by Zhou Peng pulled China within 6-7 although Castro and Gabe Norwood each nailed long distance baskets to hand Gilas a 15-10 lead.
That was when China decided to attack their opponent’s zone defense, feeding lanky big Zhou Qi underneath for countlesa basketa and free throws off fouls.
The home side zoomed to a 12-0 run and snatched a 22-15 lead, before foul shots from Calvin Abueva and Terrence Romeo cut the deficit to 19-23.
In the second quarter, the Philippine offense continued to struggle against the length and defense of the Chinese, while triples from Guo Ailun and Zhao Ji Wei made it 33-25.
Building momentum, China opened a double-digit advantage although a trey by Ranidel de Ocampo and a basket by Abueva pulled Gilas within 40-31.
The onslaught however, continued for the home team as Guo and Zhai Xiaochuang added to the barrage of baskets from beyond the arc.
China threatened to pull away in the third period although a short 5-0 run behind Andray Blatche and Hontiveros cut the Chinese lead to 49-42.
But Li Gen converted on two consecutive treys later on, capping an 11-2 run which widened the gap to 60-44.
Gilas kept fighting and once again trimmed the advantage down to just 60-50 entering the final frame.
Running out of gas
But a disastrous start in the fourth quarter for the Gilas defense allowed a drive by Guo and an and-one play by Ding Yanyuhang which extended the gap to 65-50.
Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva tried to carry Gilas halfway in the period, with baskets making it 72-58 although the Philippines misfired badly from the field as China cruised towards the end for a dream finale.
China joins the United States, Brazil, Nigeria, Australia, Venezuela, Argentina, Spain, and Lithuania as automatic Olympic qualifiers via the continental championships.
Guo had 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists to pace China while Zhou had 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Eventual tournament Most Valuable Player Yi Jianlian also finished with a double-double of 11 points and 15 boards. All three players made the FIBA Asia All-Star Five along with Jayson Castro and Iran’s Samad Nikkhah Bahrami.
No Gilas player finished in double-digits outside of Andray Blatche’s 17 points. Castro was limited to 3-for-14 shooting for 8 points.
The Philippines shot only 35.4 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point area. China in contrast made nine triples on a 37.5 percent clip and had six more free throws made.
Earlier, Iran edged Japan to bag bronze, 68-63.
China (78) – Guo 19, Zhou 16, Yi 11, Ding 9, Li 9, Zhou P. 7, Zhao 3, Zhai 2, Wang 2.
Philippines (67) – Blatche 17, Abueva 9, Romeo 9, Castro 8, Norwood 7, De Ocampo 7, Hontiveros 6, Thoss 4, Pingris 0, Ganuelas 0, Intal 0.
Quarterscores: 23-19, 46-35, 60-50, 78-67.