SJ Belangel, the smallest man in the court, delivered the biggest blow in the form of an off-balanced three-point shot off the backboard at the buzzer as Gilas Pilipinas stunned Korea, 81-78, in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center in Angeles, Pampanga on Wednesday.
The 5’10” Belangel tried to evade a pesky Korean defender and threw an off-balanced shot while falling to his right, with the ball hitting the glass first before sinking in, giving the pulsating win to the Philippines, which ended an eight-year string of losses to the visitors.
The Koreans earlier tied the game at 78-all with 2.9 seconds left.
With the win, Gilas remained unbeaten in Group A with a 4-0 card as it nailed a seat in the FIBA Asia Cup in Indonesia this August.
Meanwhile, Filipino basketball star Kai Sotto is blending well with his teammates with the Gilas Pilipinas national men’s basketball team.
The 7’3” Sotto, who is aiming to become the first pure-blooded Filipino to make it to the National Basketball Association, said he is having an easy time with teammates, many of whom he had played with in the past.
And by quickly reconnecting with them, Gilas will be ready for action in the ongoing 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.
“Okay naman. It’s been really, really good. The guys in this team are very fun to be with on and off the court. For me, it’s easy to adjust at makasama sila dahil most of them nakasama ko na before,” said Sotto in an online interview before the Gilas’ encounter with Korea.
Sotto is once again in the company of Geo Chiu, SJ Belangel and Carl Tamayo, cagers whom he played with during his days in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines junior basketball competitions and FIBA’s age-group tournaments over the past five years.
Sotto is expected to spend more time with the team in the coming days.
This is because after their stint in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers is over, Gilas will be back to practice to be ready for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia from June 29 to July 4.
After this, Sotto will head to Australia by August to hook up with the Adelaide 36ers of the National Basketball League.
Sotto is the second youngest player that the 36ers have signed up and are grooming for next year’s NBA rookie draft.
In the NBL, Sotto will be going up against matured and veteran players to speed up his development.
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