Asia’s two-time best point guard awardee, Jason Castro, again provided leadership on the floor and the much-needed points on the scoreboard to tow Gilas Pilipinas to a stirring 90-83 home-game victory over the visiting Chinese-Taipei squad on Monday night at the Araneta Coliseum.
Castro led the Gilas offense with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, coming in the most crucial parts of the game, including the last four that nailed the final tally and the Filipinos’ second straight win in Group B of the home-and-away tournament serving as the Asian zone qualifier for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Castro’s heroics came just three days after he came up with a similar 20-point production in Gilas’ similarly hard-earned 77-71 win over Japan in its away-game on Friday night at Komazawa Olympic Park General Sports Gymnasium in Tokyo.
Other members of the Gilas squad played their roles fittingly with naturalized import Andrei Blatche shining in defense despite finishing with limited numbers. June Mar Fajardo played big time with 17 points, eight rebounds and two shotblocks. Matthew Wright was the long-hitting sniper, drilling three of four treys to finish with 11.
Kiefer Ravena’s wily game forced Chinese-Taipei’s naturalized import, Quincy Davis, to foul out with barely two minutes left. Davis had 20 points for Taiwan’s losing cause. Ravena completed both his free throws off Davis’ fifth foul to hand Gilas a ten-point lead, 86-76.
Then Castro took over again.
Subbing for Ravena, Castro went back into the ballgame and immediately made his presence felt with a jumper, giving Gilas some breathing room at 88-79, with 54. 2 seconds left.
Huang connected a lay-up but Castro responded with a pair of charities on the other end to dash whatever hopes left for Chinese-Taipei.
Davis, playing aggressively in his match-up against Blatche, scooped up 12 points as Chinese-Taipei got off to a strong start, 19-5, in the first eight minutes of the game.
Reyes plugged the gaping hole just in time by taking out Blatche for Fajardo into the game. The king-sized Cebuano bullied his way around Davis, who was forced to commit two fouls and was sat out by Chinese Taipei coach Charlie Parker the rest of the first period.
Fajardo and Gabe Norwood led Gilas in outscoring the visitors, 13-4, to keep abreast of the visitors at the end of the first period, 18-23.
The home boys finally got their rhythm going in the second quarter with Ravena giving Team Pilipinas its first taste of the lead, 28-27, with a fastbreak off an assist by Calvin Abueva.
The half ended with Gilas ahead by just two, 44-42, and despite Davis sitting out most part of the third quarter, the Filipinos failed to whisk the Taipei dribblers away. Thanks to its long-bomb raiders Chou Yi-Hsiang and Huang Chen, Taipei held on at 65-64 after the third quarter.
Chinese Taipei absorbed its second straight loss following a 104-66 beating from Australia at home.
Gilas has four more games in the group and next faces Australia in February 2018.
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