For 20 minutes, the Philippines was staring at the prospect of a third
consecutive loss in the Asian Qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup. Down by 17 points twice to Qatar in the first half, it took a buzzer beating basket from Alex Cabagnot to trim it down to 13, 52-39, at the half.
Then in an incandescent third period, even with the three-point shooting still sour, the Philippines ratcheted up on the defense.
Qatar was held to 29.4% shooting in the third canto where they only
scored 12 points to the Philippines’ 28. Japeth Aguilar scored six points during that run including the go-ahead basket and the buffer shot to vault the home side to a 67-64 lead heading into the final frame.
The visiting team, depleted by injuries and coming off an embarrassing
loss to Australia, put on perhaps their finest show of the Asian
Qualifiers. The Qataris shot the daylights out the crowd-less Smart
Araneta Coliseum in the first period.
Four different players – Mohammad Hassan Mohammad, Tanguy Ngombo,
Mohd, Yusuf Mohammed, and Nasser Al-Rayes – each drilled a triple as
Qatar shot a blistering 52% from the field.
The Philippines on the other hand, couldn’t buy a basket as Qatar raced to a 26-13 lead.
Qatar poured it on in the second frame, twice extending their lead to
17-points; the last at 37-20.
“In the PBA, when Matthew Wright or Marcio Lassiter take these outside
shots, it’s almost automatic. You count it,” grinned Gilas Pilipinas
head coach Yeng Guiao as he made his way to the court for the third
period. “On the other hand, Qatar, not really known for their shooting
is killing us. Maybe, the law of averages will catch up.”
The Philippines still couldn’t hit a three-point shot. But they did
score a bunch of twinners while stopping Qatar cold.
“I don’t think we just ran out of gas,” postulated Qatar head coach
Tim Lewis. “Our players, many of them still young, couldn’t keep up
with the pace.”
Although both teams weren’t too far apart in turnovers (the
Philippines has six to Qatar’s five), the turnover points were just
enough (6-2 in favor of the former) to help the home team overhaul the
deficit and seize control of the game.
The Philippines did the work on defense – controlling the boards 19-8,
stealing the ball 5 times to the 3 of Qatar, and blocking 2 shots to
1. And more importantly, they played as a team. Gilas dished off 6
assists to the none of the visitors.
Beau Belga’s one Gilas’ sparks off the bench stripped Mohammad Yousef
Mohammad (who punished the Philippines with 26 points) and Tanguy
Ngombo in succession to help stymie any last ditch rallies for a 92-81
win. Qatar which fell to 2-6 while the Philippines improved to 5-3 and
arrested a two game slide.
“Our defense did it for us,” quipped Guiao after the game. “Plus, the
boys showed so much pride. They wanted to win this.”
Guiao admitted that it seemed surreal and weird that there was no
crowd to help give them a push. “But you get used to it after a while.
That is why kami kami na lang nag-cheer.”