Jayson Castro and Troy Rosario both made a big impact on their FIBA Asia World Cup qualifiers comeback, playing key roles as Gilas Pilipinas repeated over Japan, 89-84, last night to claim an outright entry into the next round.
Rosario sparked Gilas' chase from an early 16-point deficit while Castro delivered the biggest shot at endgame to personally finish off the Japanese and lift Gilas to the next round of the WC qualifiers where they may face Iran, Kazakhstan and Qatar.
A deafening collective roar of the home fans reverberated at the MOA Arena as Castro knocked in an awkward looping shot off former PBA import Ira Brown that hit the mark to make it 88-84 with 10.6 seconds to go.
The Filipinos escaped past the Japanese and jacked up their record to 3-1, second behind Australia (4-0) in Group B play.
Gilas, however, must still beat Chinese Taipei and Australia in the third window of the qualifiers to improve the card that it will carry over to the next round.
The Japanese gave the home team a fit but came up short in their bid, thus, dropped to a more precarious position at 0-4.
"We kind of expected that we would struggle coming off a difficult trip coming from Melbourne via Sydney. We knew we're going to have a hard time as Japan would fight for their lives. They jumped on us, but we didn't panic," said Gilas coach Chot Reyes.
"It's our ability not to give up and lose hope," said Reyes on the big key in a repeat of their 77-71 conquest of the Japanese in Tokyo last November.
Gilas had a struggling start with starters Andray Blatche, Gabe Norwood, Japeth Aguilar, Matthew Wright and Castro, but got into the fight behind its second group made up of June Mar Fajardo, RR Pogoy, Kiefer Ravena, Calvin Abueva and Rosario.
In the second quarter onwards, practically all the Gilas players took turns to deliver the goods, and the team went on to make up for their 68-84 loss to Australia Thursday.
Castro and Rosario missed that game.
"It's great that you play with the best. One big thing we missed during the Australia game was Castro - a great finisher," said Ravena.
Gilas had lost a big lead and facing tremendous pressure when Castro stepped forward and bailed the team out of trouble.*
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