The game against Kazakhstan got the best out of Andray Blatche after he lifted Gilas Pilipinas to a 93-75 smothering of the host team Sunday in Astana in Group F of the 2019 FIBA Asian Qualifiers.
“It was a very emotional game for us. We knew what’s at stake for us. It’s either we win or go home. I feel like we competed from the jump until the end,” said Blatche, who proved that he belongs his inclusion to the team after being dropped from the roster.
With South Korea winning in Beirut, and Blatche taking over in scoring for Gilas, the Philippines made it to the FIBA World Cup for a second straight time. It improved to 7-5 in Group F and emerged as the best 4th placer.
“We’re just glad it’s over. We were feeling the pressure prior to this game,” said coach Yeng Guiao.
The 6’11” Blatche scored a game-high 41 points, making 23 of it in the first half.
“We were having a bad start, and he (Blatche) took over from us,” added Guiao.
Gilas Pilipinas made it to the next stage with Japan and Iran, which finished with similar 8-4 slates.
Australia topped its bracket at 10-2, even after the Aussie Boomers took a 74-85 loss at the hands of Iran in Tehran and Japan prevailed over Qatar, 96-48 in Doha.
South Korea, which is in a different group from the Philippines, knocked Lebanon out of contention with its 10-2 card. Lebanon failed to advance because of its 6-6 slate.
For the 6’11” Blatche, it was a game to remember as he also had 13 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 blocks, and 5 three-pointers.
“We really wanted to make the World Cup. Andray carried us on his shoulders in the first half,” added Guiao.
The Philippines joined Russia, Japan, Iran, Jordan, Serbia, and Cote d’Ivoire Sunday in becoming the seven latest teams to qualify for the World Cup.
This brings to 29 the number of known teams that will compete at the first-ever 32-team World Cup, taking place in China from August 31 to September 15.
The last three places, which is two from the Americas and one from Europe, will be determined on Monday, the very last day of the Qualifiers.