An undermanned Philippine national men’s basketball team stunned defending champions China, 96-87, to get off to a rousing start to its 2017 FIBA Asia Cup campaign on Wednesday at Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Beirut, Lebanon.
Terrence Romeo erupted for 26 points as he drained cold-blooded shots that warded off the Chinese rally and kept Gilas Pilipinas afloat.
Romeo scored eight of the last 12 points of Gilas Pilipinas–just in time when China was able to come back from a 17-point deficit.
His go-ahead three-pointer with 2:12 remaining gave the lead for good for the Filipinos.
The victory served as some sort of revenge against China which beat them in the FIBA Asia finals two years ago.
Already missing Andray Blatche and injured June Mar Fajardo, Gilas Pilipinas suffered another blow as Calvin Abueva got ejected just eight minutes into the game after headbutting China’s Li Gen who provoked “The Beast”.
But Gilas Pilipinas was already off to a hot start at that time. The team scored the game’s first seven points, and took a 26-16 lead after the first quarter.
Raymond Almazan also provided a huge spark off the bench, scoring nine points in the first half. His surprise three-pointer gave Gilas Pilipinas its biggest lead at 17, 38-21.
But China found its shooting touch in the third quarter, hitting seven three-pointers to close the gap, 76-70, entering the final frame.
China finally took its first taste of the lead, 83-82, after a Hu Jinqui layup with 5:45 left.
That was when Romeo took over. As China grabbed an 87-84 lead, he fired a booming triple to tie things up with 3:55 left.
The GlobalPort Batang Pier star then nailed another tough jumper and a triple to hand the Filipinos a 92-87 lead with 2:12 left.
Christian Standhardinger and Matthew Wright then put the finishing touches as Gilas Pilipinas completed the massive upset.
The Filipino-German center added 15 points and six rebounds while Jayson Castro tallied 13 points, three rebounds and seven assists as they formed a formidable one-two punch for the Filipinos.
Wright also had 12 markers, while Japeth Aguilar registered five blocks to go along with seven points.
Gilas Pilipinas will next take on Iraq on Friday.