Gilas Pilipinas turned what was seen as an arduous trip to the 19th Asian Games men’s basketball quarterfinals into a cakewalk following an 80-41 romp of Qatar, Monday at the Zhejiang University Zijingang Gymnasium in China.
Their blowout loss to Jordan totally behind them, the crew was more aggressive on offense right from the start, nailing five treys on the way to a 33-14 lead at the end of the first to mark the beginning of a one-sided affair.
All but two players scored in the dominant play-in win, with the San Miguel duo of June Mar Fajardo and CJ Perez leading the way with 12 points apiece.
Calvin Oftana supplied 11 points, including nine in the opening period alone. He collected all of it from beyond the arc, helping spark the Filipino dribblers’ roaring start that allowed them to be in cruise control the rest of the way.
The minutes were spread out well this time, allowing the likes of Kevin Alas (eight points) and Arvin Tolentino (six points) to see action longer than they did in the past games as the big guns led by Justin Brownlee received more rest.
Ange Kouame logged the most minutes with 27, and made sure to be of help as he had eight points, 10 rebounds, three assists, a steal, and three blocks.
Gilas shot 51-percent from the floor, thanks mainly to the 21 assists they dished out as a unit. They also dominated the boards, 50-35.
They could not have chosen a better time to click, but it’s not lost on Coach Tim Cone and Co. that the journey to the top is only about to begin.
The Philippine team will have just about 18 hours to recover and shift its focus on the quarterfinals, where it takes on the undefeated Iran.
Game time is at 12 p.m. on Tuesday, with Iran seen as a favorite after finishing as the no. 1 team in Group A with a clean 3-0 record following double-digit wins over the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Kazakhstan.
Led by vets Arsalan Kazemi and Sajjad Mashayekhi, Team Melli are coming in with fresher legs, too, as they had the luxury of a two-day rest.
And like their Southeast Asian counterparts, the Iranians are looking to quench their thirst for a gold medal as well after runner-up finishes in the last two Asian Games, bowing to South Korea and China, respectively.
Whoever wins between Iran and the Philippines will take on the victor of the other QF bracket, which has China and the winner of the South Kor-Bahrain clash.
Meanwhile, Nedim Muslic was the lone double-digit scorer for Qatar with 12 points in the crushing defeat that ended their Asiad campaign.
The West Asian side was actually in it early when they tied the game up at 6-6, until Fajardo and Oftana began to spark the breakaway.
It also didn’t help the Qataris that they had to play a man short the rest of the game after Moustafa Lashin crashed hard to the floor following a drive in the closing seconds of the first quarter and suffered an apparent back injury.
Philippines (80) – Fajardo 12, Perez 12, Oftana 11, Aguilar 9, Brownlee 9, Kouame 8, Alas 8, Tolentino 6, Thompson 3, Newsome 2, Ross 0, Lassiter 0.
Qatar (41) – Muslic 12, Ndoye 7, Ndao 5, Mousa 5, Lashin 4, Haracic 3, Advic 2, Dieng 2, Darwish 1, Hajar 0, Abdelbaset 0, Talla 0.
Quarterscores: 33-14, 57-23, 73-30, 80-41.