Calls definitely weren’t coming the way of the Philippine national team, but all they needed was the continent’s best point guard and their team captain getting hot at just the right time to advance to the Finals of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship.
No one could stay in front of Jayson Castro while Dondon Hontiveros turned in his best performance of the tournament as Gilas Pilipinas overcame questionable officiating for an 81-70 triumph against Japan on Friday in Changsha, China.
Referees called 24 fouls against the Filipinos that led to 24 points for the Japanese from the free throw line. Still, Castro once again reinforced his status as Asia’s best point guard in ending with 20 points, seven assists, and two steals to lead the Philippines back to the Finals armed with a seven-game winning streak.
Japan took full advantage of their trips from the charity stripe and had the score even at 54 entering the final frame before Hontiveros buried a triple to generate an 8-2 surge that pushed Gilas ahead, 62-56, with 7:22 remaining. The Japanese stayed in the game and threatened once more at 65-69, but Hontiveros dropped two bombs in another 10-3 blast that finally finished the job.
“The Cebuano Hotshot” converted on all but three of his nine attempts from long-range and Andray Blatche posted a 22-point, 13-rebound double-double to help steady the Filipinos.
Makoto Hiejima was a thorn on the side of the Philippines after scoring 28 points in the first three quarters, but ran out of gas.
Gilas meets in the Finals host country China who dethroned Iran earlier.
PHILIPPINES 81 – Blatche 22, Castro 20, Hontiveros 18, De Ocampo 8, Abueva 6, Romeo 3, Norwood 2, Pingris 2, Ganuelas-Rosser 0, Thoss 0
JAPAN 70 – Hiejima 28, Takeuchi 18, Tabuse 9, Ota 5, Furukawa 4, Arao 3, Tanaka 2, Hirose 1, Hashimoto 0, Matsui 0, Ono 0
QUARTER SCORES: 16-17, 39-39, 54-54, 81-70