China bucks Sotto’s monster game to enter U16 finals

FOSHAN (FIBA U16 Asia Championship) China had to muster all the strength they had to survive Kai Sotto’s monster production and prevail over the Philippines in today’s last Semi-Finals match.

Kai Sotto tallied his second straight outrageous stat-line, putting up 26 points, 21 rebounds and 6 blocked shots, but even that was not enough to upend the hosts, who leaned on their offensive rebounding and the clutch shooting of Sun Haoqin to win the contest and earn their place at tomorrow’s Final.

China and the Philippines were neck-and-neck in the first half, which saw 11 lead changes, but the hosts still managed to take a slim 32-30 lead into the halftime break. When the third period began, it was a different story as China outscored the Filipinos, 16-7, using stingy defense to force a number of turnovers and produce easy baskets. The Chinese had an 11-point lead heading into the final quarter, and though the Philippines rallied to cut the deficit to as low as 3 points, the home team still wound up on top when the final buzzer sounded.

Haoqin came up huge in that final stretch, completing a crucial three-point play that pretty much took the wind out of the Philippines’ sails. The 6ft 3in (1.91m) guard top-scored for China with 22 points to go along with 4 rebounds and 3 steals. He was supported by Xierzhati Saimaiti’s 10 points, while Lu Pengyu added 8 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. China forced the Philippines to commit 20 turnovers while they had just 7 of their own. This negated the Filipinos’ edge in rebounding, 52-47.

The Philippines played without starting small forward RC Calimag, who was nursing a sore knee. Calimag was their hero last night against Japan, hitting the game-winning layup. In his stead, Terrence Fortea stepped up with 18 points and 9 rebounds, but the Philippines still came up short.

This victory was effectively payback for China as they lost to the Philippines in the 2015 edition, and they have set up a date with fellow unbeaten team Australia in tomorrow’s FIBA U16 Asian Championship Final. The Philippines, meanwhile, will play New Zealand for the last spot on the podium.