After four tries, the Under-17 squad of Batang Gilas Pilipinas finally picked up that elusive win after escaping Egypt, 70-69, Sunday morning (Manila time) at the the Technological University Stadium in Sante Fe, Argentina.
With the win, this batch of Batang Gilas will finish the Under-17 World Cup a rank or two higher than the last team that made it to this stage back in 2014.
The 2014 team, which featured the likes of 23 for 2023 Gilas Cadets Paul Desiderio and Matt Nieto, finished in 15th place – picking up their sole win during the 15th place match.
This time around, the Philippines will face New Zealand in the 13th place game. The tilt takes place on Monday, July 9 at 2:15am (Philippine time).
But the young Filipinos needed to dig deep to pick up the victory.
Kai Sotto led the way with 28 big points to go along with 17 rebounds and three blocks.
Batang Gilas led by as much 20 points, 39-19, after two free throws by Sotto with 2:07 left in the second half.
The Egyptians then came alive with a stunning rally in the second half, capped by a pair of Omar Morsy free throws, to give Egypt a 67-66 edge with just 54 seconds remaining.
But Sotto did not want to lose another one, willing his way to the paint and drawing a couple of fouls against the Egyptians. The best under-16 center in Asia calmly knocked down all four of his freebies to give the Philippine-side a four-point cushion with eight ticks left.
A clutch three-pointer by Mazen Ibrahim, followed by misses on the stripe by Gerry Abadiano, gave Egypt a chance. But with no timeouts left, Moray had to throw a Hail Mary that badly missed as time expired.
Abadiano had 15 points, while Forthsky Padrigao played his best all-around game of the tournament with 10 points, five rebounds, and three assists. Big man Raven Cortez chipped in 10 markers and six boards.
Khalifa paced Egypt with 17 points.
Philippines 70 – Sotto 28, Abadiano 15, Padrigao 10, Cortez 10, Calimag 5, Chiu 2, Lazaro 0, Andrada 0, Fortea 0, Guadana 0, Pascual 0
Egypt 69 – Khalifa 17, Elmadawy 12, Morsy 11, Hassan 7, Ibrahim 7, Noureldin 7, Mohamed 3, Mahmoud 3, Lehitta 2, Saed 0, Helmy 0
Quarterscores: 17-8, 41-26, 55-50, 70-69