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Gilas Pilipinas opens FIBA Asia with unexpected loss to Palestine

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Gilas Pilipinas suffered an upset at the hands of a young Palestinian team, 73-75 to open their FIBA Asia Championship campaign at the CSWC Dayun in Changsha, China.

The tournament will serve as a qualifier for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Unranked Palestine only had four players who scored to trounce a balance attack of the Philippine national squad.

Jamal Shamla poured 26 points to go with 15 boards and three dimes to lead the charge for Palestine.

Gilas Pilipinas was caught flat in the early goings of the first quarter. The Palestinians got the first bucket of the game as they tried to match the intensity of the Filipinos as the first timers of the tournament held an early two-point cushion, 7-5. Gilas rallied through filling the lanes properly and connecting some long bombs for a 13 to nothing run to put Palestine down by 11 as early as the opening canto.

In a mini run, Palestine managed to squeeze in to trim the deficit to six but another lull allowed Philippines to score nine unanswered points to end the first period up, 27-12. Andray Blatche, who promised he’ll be in shape in time for the tournament, led his squad with early an early nine-point blast.

Despite the Philippines’ naturalized center’s continued dominance in the 2nd quarter, the Palestinians were able to get back through Jamal Abu Shamala’s prolific scoring. After only making one field goal in the opening quarter, Shamala poured in 12 more points in the second quarter. The 6’5 forward also had eight boards under his name in the first half.

As Blatche was subbed out with seven minutes left in the second period, the Palestinians were able to trim the deficit to just five, 40-45, before the half ended. Blatche led Gilas with a 14 markers and eight boards in the opening half of their #RoadtoRio campaign.

After going cold in the later part of the second quarter, Gilas blasted with a seven to none rally. However, the Palestine nationals unloaded an 11-4 run to inch back to a five-point hole.

With all the scoring only coming from four people namely Shamala, Imad Qahwash, and Sani Sakakini, Palestine managed to pull a 55-59 count at the end of the third. Blatche also went scoreless the entire third period for the Philippines.

After some anxious moments right after the Palestinians scored the first basket of the payoff period to trim the lead to two, Gilas Pilipinas returned the favor with a 9-2 run to give themselves a nine point cushion with six more minutes left in the final frame. Gilas maintained their nine-point margin until the final three minutes of the match. But the young Palestine squad were determined to turn the pregame reports around.

With 15 seconds remaining, Gilas, being down by two, tried to map out a play to score a win or force an overtime. Blatche was able to heave a corner three that was blocked as the final buzzer sounded, and the Palestinians completed a 13-2 run in the final three minutes to stun the Filipinos.

Gilas Pilipinas was led by Blatche’s 21 points and 12 boards. He went 7/18 from the field but shot just 1/7 from downtown. The backcourt tandem of Castro and Romeo combined for 21 points but Romeo shot a horrendous 4/13 from the field while Castro was just 3/8.

As a team, the Philippines shot just 33.8% from the field compared to 32.5% from Palestine. However, Gilas was outrebounded 58-53.

Gilas Pilipinas will play Hong Kong tomorrow at 9:30am (Philippine time).

The Scores:
Palestine (75) – Shamala 26, Sakanini 22, Qahwash 17, Sakanini 10, Yousef 0, Younis 0, Haroon 0.
Philippines (73) – Blatche 21, Romeo 11, Castro 10, Intal 6, De Ocampo 6 Abueva 5, Thoss 4, Norwood 3, Hontiveros 3, Pingris 2, Ganuelas 2, Taulava 0.

Being the favorites of the group, Gilas (0-1) needs to win their next two games versus Hong Kong and Kuwait to be able to have a chance to advance to the next round with a decent standing. Palestine now joins Hong Kong on top of the standings with the win.

GROUP B
Hong Kong1 win0 losses
Palestine1 win0 losses
Philippines0 wins1 loss
Kuwait0 wins1 loss
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