Calimag lay-up lifts Batang Gilas to FIBA U16 semis

RC Calimag drove through the heart of Japan’s defense and scored a difficult shot to life the Philippines to a pulsating 72-70 victory over Japan that sent Batang Gilas to the semi-finals of the FIBA Asia Under-16 Championships at the Lignan Mingzhu Gymnasium in Foshan, China.

However, before the Philippines could fully celebrate then had to endure one last attempt by Japan to forge overtime but Chikara Tanaka, who earlier buried a triple to notch the game at 70-all with 32 seconds to play, missed a turn-around jumper that ended the game.

Calimag’s game winner averted what would have been a huge disaster for the Philippine U-16 squad which struggled against Japan for much for the first half; falling behind 34-32 at the half. The Japanese repeated attacked the interior of the Philippines despite the presence of seven-foot Kai Sotto.

Come the third period, it was the Philippines’ turn to attack the lane as Sotto scored seven straight points to give Batang Gilas a 39-36 lead they would not surrender.

The Filipinos were poised to blowout their Japanese counterparts when they strung up a 13-point lead following a Terrence Fortea jumper, 57-44, at the 2:12 mark of the third period.

In the fourth period, Tanaka caught fire scoring Japan’s last 14 points including four triples that got Japan back in the game. His endgame heroics went for naught after he badly missed on the potential game-tying shot.

Kai Sotto led the Philippines by scoring 28 huge points and grabbing 21 rebounds. He also swatted away three Japanese shots to go with three assists.

Calimag was the only other Filipino in double figures with 15 points.

Tanaka led Japan with 17 points including six triples. Yuki Satoshi added 14 points while Mitani Keijiro and Tominaga Keisei each contributed 12 points to their effort that saw them play the Filipinos with no fear.

Japan actually did better in a few statistical categories such as points from turnovers, 15-6; and a slight 3-2 advantage in fastbreak points. Batang Gilas had one more second chance point, 16-15. They even shot more free throws 18-14.

It was the Philippines inside scoring, 48-32, that saw them shoot better from the field, 39% to the 34% of Japan.

The Philippines will either face China or Lebanon in the semi-finals that will be played on Saturday, April 7, at 3pm.