Batang Gilas squeaks past Malaysia in U-16 opener

FOSHAN, CHINA — The Philippines labored through a lethargic 62-57 win over Malaysia that opened their 2018 FIBA Asia Under-16 Championships account.


Despite standing at least four inches taller than the Malaysians who paraded a line up with an average height of six-feet flat, it was the Philippines’ Southeast Asian neighbor who played more courageously.


Malaysia led by seven points, 21-14 halfway through the second period after a John Tang jumper. Although the Filipinos were able to battle back to the Malaysians retook the lead once last time at 37-36, at the 5:51 mark of the third quarter after Tang drilled a triple.


Kai Sotto scored four straight points to give the Philippines the lead for good. After both sides struggled to put points on the board, RC Calimag hit a three for a 45-39 lead.


The Philippines looked to finally blow out the pesky Malaysians after they led, 49-40, after 30 minutes of play, but turnovers and poor shooting allowed the latter to creep back into the game.


Leading 62-57 with 25 seconds left to play, Forthsky Padriago and Joshua Lazaro botched four straight free throws to give Malaysia an opening to steal the game. But

Khor Hao Wen missed two free throws and Tan Chee Way came up short on a 15-foot jumper off a steal.


Terrence Fortea led the Philippines with 15 points while Kai Sotto added 12 points and 13 rebounds. Raven Cortez also added a double double of 12 points and 12 boards.


For Malaysia, John Tang was the only scorer in double digits with 17 points.


Bolstered by the tandem of Sotto and Cortez, the Philippines grabbed more rebounds 79-60 while scoring 16-8 second chance points.